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Botched COVID Tests Keep CNY Nurse on Sidelines for 11 Days Wondering if She's Been Infected

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Testing for the coronavirus has become a top healthcare priority across the community.  For many, it determines whether they can work or even go out of the house.  But uncertainties in the system left one nurse isolated and unable to help others.

You can imagine the uncertainty while waiting for a COVID 19 test result … but how about waiting for three in a row.  That’s what happened to Dorothy – a nurse at a primary care medical office in Syracuse after telling her boss of concerns.

“I’m short of breath and I’m shaky.  What do you think I should do?  I didn’t know at the time if I had been exposed but the likelihood was there. And she said, ‘yes, you need to leave the office and go get tested.’”  

She was tested on a Friday and told health professionals tests are rushed to help her get back to work.

“… and they said, ‘no, it’s 4 or 5 days.’  And Monday comes and I got a phone call, ‘Calling to let you know that your specimen leaked.  We have to have you come back and do it again.’”

After a second test, Dorothy tries to track down results – unsuccessfully, until she gets a call.

“ A gal on the line says, ‘I’m calling to let you know that something happened in transit to your specimen.  We need you to come in and do another one.’  This is the third time.  I get something happening one; it happens.  This is the third time.”

Medical professionals acknowledge processing labs were changed, they ran out of swabs and materials for tests at times, But Saint Joseph’s Hospital officials say they, for one, did not experience missing or contaminated tests. 

At one hospital, Saint Joseph’s, Infection and Prevention Control Manager and Nurse Pearl Lavalette acknowledged some problems with testing - at times having a shortage of swabs for tests and inability to get quick results.  But not Dorothy’s mishaps.

“We haven’t had that experience of tests getting lost or misplaced, or even contaminated, for that matter, because of how these are collected,” said Lavalette.  “We’ve had a great process to continue to test our patients without issue.”  

Dorothy’s third test result finally came back -- negative – 11 days after first having concern about symptoms. 

“I am not symptomatic at this point.  I had been on the Thursday but I’m not now (at the time).  I am a nurse.  I want to get back to work.  I want to be taking care of my patients.  I want to be in the game; I do not want to be on the sidelines.” 

She’s happy to be back to work now, but left with questions about uncertainties in COVID testing system … which will be critical in responding to the virus going forward.

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.