State lab recording error to blame for false report of coronavirus-linked death

State lab recording error to blame for false report of coronavirus-linked death

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Lawmakers demanded answers from the state Wednesday about how the Health Department incorrectly reported a man’s death was coronavirus-related.

The state announced the death Monday.

The next day, they said the information was wrong ― the result of a procedural error ― and assured residents that the elderly Oahu resident who died had never had the virus.

Now, it appears state officials are blaming the error on their own lab.

An initial announcement reclassifying the death as not coronavirus-related came about 9 p.m. Tuesday night. In a short statement, health officials said the test results had been misread.

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Posted by Hawaii News Now on Wednesday, March 25, 2020

On Wednesday, lawmakers got a better explanation.

Edward Desmond, state Laboratory director, said the analyst who conducted the test mis-recorded it as being positive. "And the supervisor at the end of the day failed to catch the error,” he said.

The state confirms the lab analyst didn’t know they were testing a sample from a patient who had died.

State Sen. Donna Kim questioned why Department of Health officials didn’t double check the result before releasing information to the public.

State epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park responded:

“We don’t normally double check every death that is reported.”

Kim followed up, “But this is the first death for COVID.”

The state Department of Health says it is “deeply apologetic” about the mistake and says it has since implemented another layer of review to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

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