State retesting 82 people after malfunction

Published: May. 26, 2020 at 8:33 PM CDT
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Last week, the state lab had a malfunction with two pieces of their testing equipment, and that led to a round of retests for 82 people.

Of the 82 retests, 64 of them have already come back negative, with only one positive. However, 16 of these tests are still pending, with one refusing to take the retest.

But a retest is no easy task. Christie Massie of the Department of Health said that it is nearly impossible to prove a false positive. And that's because a retest is done days later, and the condition of the disease can change over that time. The kind of test that was being done determines whether or not they had the disease at the time the sample was collected.

"We have internal and external quality controls that we perform every day on every run to ensure that there is a minimal risk of having these false positives occur. It was actually the vigilance and the expertise of our laboratory personnel that was able to identify this. This was something that would've been really hard to catch.,” Massie said.

In each test, there are 96 wells which hold samples. During each round, there are two controls added with the samples: one positive and one negative.

The control negative came back positive, indicating an issue. These control tests had been done monthly but had recently changed to be done weekly.

The DOH said they will be doing them every day. Massie credited her team with finding the issue.

"When samples enter the laboratory, we actually do not treat them any differently. We treat everything as if they're high-priority. We're actually trained early on to treat every sample that comes in as if it was a sample from our parents or our grandparents. So, we treat every specimen the same. That helps ensure reproducibility and reliability,” Massie said.

All of this comes at a time when the state is pushing for upwards of 6,000 tests per day.

But, Governor Doug Burgum, R-N.D., said that the state needs to have a private-public partnership to accomplish that goal.

Just recently, the governor said the state was forming a relationship with a lab in North Carolina.

The state had sent samples to their lab and receive results in 33 hours. For North Dakota, the window of return is 24 to 48 hours.

Burgum added that the relationship with the lab in North Carolina could expand.

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