What should you do if your COVID test comes back ‘invalid’? It depends.

The COVID surge means more tests … and more inconclusive results.
Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 5:41 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 21, 2022 at 9:00 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Bernadette Toyama went to the Pearl City Shopping Center COVID-19 testing site three times in three days this week.

On Saturday, her PCR test result came back “invalid” ― a result she had never seen before.

She went back the next day.

“I said, you know this is my second time doing it, can somebody watch me to make sure I’m swabbing correctly?” she said. The person working supervised and told her she did it correctly.

But that results also came back “invalid” the next day.

So she returned on Monday.

“It was so upsetting, so frustrating,” said Toyama.

Toyama's three 'invalid' test results
Toyama's three 'invalid' test results(None)

Medical experts say the “invalid” result can happen for several reasons.

If the swab was done correctly, it could be a problem with the transporting of the specimens.

“In the lab, every time they run the test, they have to run them against a control sample and if that control is invalid then the whole batch is invalid,” said Dr. Sarah Kemble, state epidemiologist.

Kemble said anyone testing because they were exposed or showing symptoms should isolate and try an at-home test. She said those tests might not be as accurate as a PCR test, but they are a lot easier to use and a lot more convenient.

“The results are pretty good, to the point that we can make decisions based on that,” Kemble said.

For people needing a negative PCR test to return to daily activities, experts suggest talking to their employer to get more time and then trying a different testing site.

Toyama said she emailed the operators of the location at the Pearl City Shopping Center, Capture Diagnostics, for more information but she has not heard back.

A spokesperson from Capture Diagnostics said the “integrity of our test reporting is critical. If we are unable to determine a positive or negative result, we will ask the test participant to return and retest.”

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