University Says False Positives Inflated COVID Numbers 600% Among Group of Athletes

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A rash of false-positive coronavirus tests has led the University of Arizona to issue an apology to student-athletes who it claimed had the virus but did not.

The university reported Thursday that 13 student-athletes had tested positive for COVID-19 — a single-day record for the school.

Three days later, however, Arizona athletics said in a statement that the actual number of positive tests was just two. That means the initial numbers inflated the total by more than 600 percent.

“On Thursday, Arizona Athletics reported a single-day high of positive COVID-19 test results for student-athletes,” the university said Sunday. “After concluding an exhaustive contact-tracing protocol, the medical director for Arizona Athletics requested additional testing of the samples, stating that the contact history reports did not support the positive test results.

“After further review, Arizona Athletics Director of Medical Services Dr. Stephen Paul said conflicting information prompted a rerun of the test samples. The retest showed that false positive results were previously reported.

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“On Sep. 3, the athletics department reported 13 positive test results for athletes, after a rerun of those tests, two came back positive,” the university said.

After the first round of testing, several members of the women’s soccer team were reported to have tested positive for the virus, prompting the school to shut down the program for 14 days, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

However, the university said Sunday that the team “will resume normal reentry activities on Wednesday.”

“We communicated with all those impacted and apologized for the error,” Paul said.

“The one positive that has come out of this process has been the reinforcement of our commitment to our contact-tracing protocols,” he said. “Because of the honesty and engagement of the participants, we were able to determine there was a potential error in our process. This also demonstrates the commitment by the student-athletes to the protocols is working.”

According to the Arizona Republic, the university reported Thursday that it had racked up 126 positive tests out of 1,520 students, faculty and staff tested.

The Daily Star reported Sunday that 12 positive tests of non-athletes were rerun, and eight came back positive.

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The university said the lab that tested the student samples said an instrumentation error led to the false positives and it will review its operations.

“As we do more comprehensive testing, both on and off campus, it is incumbent on our team to display the same determination and integrity that led to this result. I also want to acknowledge the student-athletes impacted and apologize to them and their families for this disruption in their lives,” University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins said in a statement.

Last week, the NFL had 77 positive COVID-19 tests re-examined over concerns of false positives, and all those tests came back negative, according to WJZY-TV.

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