State of Tenn. confirms 300 people incorrectly traced as positive COVID-19 cases

File photo of COVID-19 testing in Hawaii.
File photo of COVID-19 testing in Hawaii.(Hawaii News Now/file)
Published: Jul. 28, 2020 at 12:49 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WMC/WSMV) - The Tennessee Department of Health has confirmed a “coding error” caused about 300 people to be incorrectly told they were being traced as positive COVID-19 cases instead of being tracked as people who had only come in contact with the sick.

The confirmation comes after Brock Ballou, a Mount Juliet, Tennessee father, was repeatedly told by contact tracers that he was positive for COVID-19, even though he had never even taken a test.

“Everyone makes mistakes, but this is a big error when it comes to a pandemic like this and told that they are positive I know I’m not the only one. And that’s irritating,” Ballou said.

The Tenn. Dept. of Health said, “The error was discovered and corrected within 24 hours.”

A spokeswoman for the health department said a coding error led to an estimated 300 people being told they were being monitored as positive COVID-19 cases. They should have been told they were being monitored as coming in contact with an infected person.

Shelley Walker, spokeswoman for the Department of Health said, “People should have been notified they were a contact but were being called as if they were a case. No one was given incorrect test results.”

However, Ballou said he was told the wrong information.

“To me, it’s upsetting to the fact that I don’t know how it works – what’s the incentive of having so many numbers? That’s what I feel is going on. And that’s what I want to know why,” Ballou said.

Tennessee reported that the number of positive cases they release to the public each date comes from labs - not from the data shared with contact tracers.

It’s also unclear how many of the 300 were, or were not, positive at the time contact tracers reached out to them.

Because of how easily the virus spreads, by the time contact tracers spoke to the 300, many of them may have, in fact, tested positive.

While Ballou has never been tested, it is unclear how many of the 300 were also asymptomatic and therefore never got tested.

The state was asked if they intend on reaching out to each of the 300 to inform them of the error. Ballou said he has not been contacted.

“At this point, I honestly don’t know what to think,” Ballou said.

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