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COVID-19 testing lab used by Cal Poly reports dozens of false positives

Posted at 10:10 PM, Jan 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-28 13:47:26-05

University officials with Cal Poly say their third-party testing lab reported dozens of false positives.

A letter to the campus community from President Jeffery Armstrong said that after receiving an alarming amount of positive COVID-19 tests from Avellino Labs, the university asked the lab to re-process the results.

According to the university, the lab reported a significantly higher number of positive tests from samples collected on one particular day compared to the positivity trend rates they had been seeing for the campus. On the day after this one-day increase, the number of positive results significantly declined.

Avellino informed Cal Poly that it discovered a technician error in their lab processing which led them to mistakenly identify and report 41 false-positive tests.

Campus officials contacted the impacted students informing them of the error. Twenty-eight of the 41 students were cleared to return to normal campus activities. The remaining 13 may have been exposed to other students while in COVID-19 isolation and remain under isolation.

University officials say they are planning to transition away from Avellino Labs by implementing their own in-house saliva testing procedure within the next two weeks.

In a statement, Avellino said, "These false positive outcomes were determined to be the result of an isolated incident of human error. This incident was an anomaly, one that is being immediately addressed with retraining and technology safeguards."

The company says it has conducted approximately 40,000 tests for Cal Poly to date.