Cal Poly partner lab makes mistake on COVID-19 test results

Feb 1, 2021

Avellino Labs, a third-party lab charged with administering COVID-19 tests to Cal Poly students, told campus officials in late January it made a mistake in reporting test results.

A one-day spike in positive cases garnered notice by the lab and the university. 41 students were given the wrong test results, forcing them into isolation on campus.

“Given this unexpected spike and out of an abundance of caution, we asked Avellino Labs to re-process and reconfirm those results while we also moved forward with our protocol to isolate students who test positive,” according to a statement issued by the university president’s office.

Thirteen of those students ended up having to continue quarantine, due to being in isolation with students who actually carried the virus.

“We have moved those 13 students to individual isolation quarters, are providing care and support for them and are testing them per CDC and public health guidelines to determine their current health status,” according to Cal Poly officials.

One of the students in isolation, business administration freshman Zoee Simmons, said she felt there was a lack of communication between her and the university.

“When I was first in isolation, they didn’t tell me how long I was going to be in there,” Simmons said. “I knew it was 10 days from other people but I didn’t even know when my 10 days was up.”

Simmons said she suspected her test was wrong but the campus testing center denied her a retest.

“I didn’t have any symptoms and I asked to get retested but they specifically told me they didn’t offer that service to students,” Simmons said.

When a student tests positive for coronavirus, it also affects the people they’re living with. Roommates must go into self-isolation, and Simmons called the experience disruptive. She confirmed that the university initially provided resources to students to feel supported.

“While in isolation they gave me the link of someone I could talk to if I was lonely and I guess they have Zoom meetings on the weekends that you could join just to talk to people,” Simmons said.

Cal Poly administrators said there were "many services are able to assist students."  And that even before the false positive results mistake, the school was already planning to end its contract with the outside lab.

“As it happens, we have been planning for months to transition away from using Avellino Labs and will be implementing our own in-house saliva testing procedure for all students,” according to the university’s statement.

Cal Poly said the switch will be made during the month of February.