Boston lab halts COVID-19 testing after nearly 400 false positives

A testing lab in Boston paused COVID-19 testing after an investigation by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health found nearly 400 false positive results, NBC News reported.

The lab, Orig3n, stopped testing Aug. 8 per the department's request. State health officials said they became aware of an unusually high number of positive COVID-19 tests. An investigation found at least 383 false positive results from the lab. 

The health department on Aug. 27 cited Orig3n with "three significant certification deficiencies that put patients at immediate risk of harm," according to NBC News. 

Orig3n has until Sept. 14 to provide a written plan of correction to the state health department or it could face sanctions. 

Orig3n does testing for about 60 nursing homes. The North Hill Retirement Community in Needham, Mass., said that after it received false positive results, it moved residents into isolation and employees were sent home with paid sick leave. 

"We notified our community of residents, family members and employees about the situation, which understandably caused significant concern. The costs to the facility were also significant," the nursing home's CEO Ted Owens told NBC News. "The false positive results created tremendous fear and anxiety among employees, residents and the family members of both."

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services also said it would stop working with the lab. 

The scale of the false positives is unclear, as state officials didn't retest every test the lab processed. The lab processed tens of thousands of COVID-19 tests across the country over the past 90 days, according to NBC News. 

Orig3n told NBC News: "We understand the critical importance of speed and precision of COVID-19 testing, and we're committed to providing accurate, timely results for our clients."

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