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Indeterminate test results spur COVID-19 confusion
Breanna Excell decided to go get a COVID-19 test last week, like hundreds of thousands of Albertans before her. A client at her work had developed symptoms consistent with the novel coronavirus. Even though she was asymptomatic, she decided to get tested for peace of mind.
But unlike most Albertans who get tested for COVID-19, Excell’s test result wasn’t a simple positive or negative.
“I got a phone call a couple days later from a person, and I thought, ‘Am I positive?’ But she just said I was ‘indeterminate,’ which I didn’t even know was a possibility,” Excell said.
She was told that since she was asymptomatic, she didn’t need to self-isolate, but that she could go get tested again.
But on Saturday, Excell received a second call, this time from the Alberta Health Services Infectious Disease Clinic, giving her the indeterminate diagnosis once more and telling her that getting retested was now a strong recommendation.
Alberta pilots ‘pool testing’ to expand COVID-19 testing capacity
Pooled tests mix biological samples from several people before testing. If the combined sample tests negative for the novel coronavirus, lab officials consider all samples involved to be negative. If the combined sample tests positive, however, all individual samples are tested alone to determine which sample or samples are positive.
“Pooling samples is an effective approach for performing a large number of tests while using fewer laboratory supplies and staff,” said AHS spokesperson James Wood in a statement.