Investigation report delayed, interview requests denied amid false positives and school quarantines linked to CA COVID lab – CBS Sacramento

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SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – After months of denial of interviews and requests for information from public health officials, CBS13 turned to Governor Newsom for answers on the testing lab’s lingering problems State’s troubled $ 1.7 billion COVID.

His response indicated that he may not have been aware of the late results, false positives and widespread quarantines that have recently plagued schools across the state.


Public health issues and Liability questions
AT California’s struggling COVID lab


State inspectors discovered “significant deficiencies” during an inspection of the CDPH-PerkinElmer COVID lab in December, investigated whistleblower claims in February, and pledged to release the inspection and whistleblower investigation reports to the public in mid-March – but still not.

The problems continued in April when more students returned to school in person and districts began using the state’s COVID lab to process required COVID tests for athletes.

When CBS13 asked the governor about the lab’s current concerns during his May budget press tour, he said Dr Ghaly would provide answers. It’s been two weeks and we’re still waiting – and so are the parents.

Students Suffer Amid COVID Lab Concerns

As we’ve reported, the impact of issues at the state’s COVID testing lab continues to be felt statewide.

In April, delayed test results forced some schools to cancel games and others to quarantine entire teams due to a positive player on the pitch.

The state’s taxpayer-funded $ 1.7 billion contract with PerkinElmer, to run the so-called Valencia Branch Lab (VBL), requires them to return the results within 48 hours. Some schools said they still had not received results after a week.

Laboratory management blamed routine maintenance for the delays and the state seemed to take him at his word. However, CBS13 obtained internal emails between the lab’s senior management, discussing a “contamination issue” that “shut down production” that week.

READ ALSO: COVID results at school delayed, games canceled and contamination problems

The following week, a southern California school district reported an “unprecedented number” of false positives from the state lab, which were later confirmed by the LA County Department of Public Health.

That same week, several school districts in northern California were forced to quarantine hundreds of healthy students following an increase in presumably positive lab results.

In many cases, parents and students told us they were forced to do independent home study for two weeks because many districts were unprepared for blanket quarantines and had no options. distance learning in place after returning to full-time education.

The El Dorado Union School District reported a 1,000% increase in their positivity rate when they went from a private lab to the state lab for testing. The most recent data provided by the state indicated that the lab’s positivity rate was more than 60% higher than California’s overall positivity rate in February and March.

READ ALSO : Are false positives or sensitive tests responsible for spikes in COVID at school?

Following our reports, the state has allowed at least one district to prematurely end its quarantine. But now some schools are advising seniors to virtually work the rest of the year to avoid being quarantined for graduation.

Generally speaking, schools fear that children will be exposed to a positive case on campus. However, some parents are concerned, because their school uses the state lab, that their oldest child has an increased risk of being quarantined due to close contact with a false positive case.

It is still unclear how many California students may have been affected by these issues with state lab testing.

When CBS13 asked the state for a list of schools participating in testing through the lab, the CDPH provided a partial list of 28 schools and six districts. The list did not include any of the more than half a dozen schools and districts we had heard of.

When we asked the agency about the missing schools and districts, the CDPH said some “may have been created as community sites” but did not provide a list of these.

Delayed inspection and investigation reports

In February, whistleblowers exposed allegations ranging from unlicensed lab technicians sleeping on the job, to incidents of contamination, samples being exchanged and erroneous results at the height of the pandemic.

The state opened an investigation into the allegations and later revealed that inspectors had previously found “significant deficiencies” during an inspection of the laboratory in December.

According to the state, the laboratory faced an “immediate risk” designation denoting “the most serious and glaring threat to health and safety. “The lab had until March 1 to respond and correct the deficiencies.

READ ALSO : Regulators Find ‘Significant Deficiencies’ In CA COVID Testing Lab – Whistleblowers Respond

The state has pledged to make the inspection report public by mid-March and told CBS13 it will release the findings of the whistleblower investigation at the same time. However, when CBS 13 requested an update in April amid the school’s false positives, officials from the California Department of Public Health said, “The investigation is ongoing.”

“If they haven’t solved their problems, how are we supposed to trust them? Asked Michelle Peterson, a mother from Roseville, Calif.

“What is taking so long?” said Todd Venneri, whose son uses the Placer County State Lab.

“We need an explanation,” said Nevada Union athletic director Daniel Crossen.

READ ALSO: COVID results at school delayed, games canceled and contamination problems

Trying to get answers

After Health Secretory Ghaly turned down repeated interview requests and the CDPH refused to answer our questions, CBS13 asked the governor about concerns about school testing and delayed reporting during his budget press tour. from May – twice.

“Is there an update on this investigation and do you think it is important for the public to hear the outcome of this investigation?” Steve Large asked the CBS13 reporter in a one-on-one interview.

“It’s not just updates, they have all been resolved,” replied the governor.

The governor hinted that the allegations of problems were exaggerated and he appeared to believe the report had already been released.

“We released it several months ago,” he said.

Hours later, the CRPD rejected our request for a report, reiterating in an email that it was not complete:

“PerkinElmer, the operator under contract of the laboratory of the Valencia branch, provided all the requested information to the field services of the CDPH laboratory; the final report is being finalized and will be made public.

So we followed up the next day at the governor’s May budget press conference, specifically asking about testing issues in schools.

“School districts across the state have been forced to quarantine children due to apparent false positives from the state’s COVID testing lab. Inspectors discovered “significant deficiencies” at the lab in December, investigated whistleblower allegations in February, and your administration has pledged to make the inquiries public by March, but still has not done so, “he said. summed up CBS13 reporter Marissa Perlman for Governor.

Why doesn’t the CRPD publish laboratory investigations? And should schools use the state’s COVID lab in light of these issues?she asked.

“Yes, they should,” replied the governor.

He seemed unaware of the recent problems with the school tests and claimed that all the problems in the lab were resolved “many, many, many months ago.”

“You will have the opportunity to speak in more detail to Dr Ghaly and his representatives in a moment,” he added.

But that did not happen.

We have contacted Dr Ghaly’s team several times by text and email since the May 14 press conference. Ghaly’s media representative pointed out to us the previous CDPH statement but did not acknowledge our repeated requests for an interview despite the governor’s offer.

Meanwhile, worried parents are waiting for answers, fearing flawed tests and mass quarantines will again prevent their children from attending school in the fall.

Always working to get answers

After the CRPD stopped responding to the station’s requests for information, CBS 13 submitted several public records law requests and Freedom of Information requests to the California Department of Public Health, at the California Health and Human Services Agency, which oversees the CDPH, and the Center For Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is the federal regulatory body for laboratories.

We expect to receive the first batch of recordings in early June and will continue to work to get you answers.


Public health issues and Liability questions
AT California’s struggling COVID lab

The whistleblower investigation

READ ALSO : Asleep in the lab: Whistleblower Allegations from CA $ Billion COVID Lab

READ ALSO: Billion $ COVID Testing Lab Under Investigation Following CBS13 Whistleblower Report

READ ALSO: Dubious COVID Results – More Regarding State COVID Lab Whistleblower Claims

READ ALSO : PerkinElmer Sues Whistleblower Over Allegations of Struggling COVID Testing Lab in California

READ ALSO : Regulators Find ‘Significant Deficiencies’ In CA COVID Testing Lab – Whistleblowers Respond

The troubled test

READ ALSO: ‘Inconclusive’ Results Should Be ‘Reported As Positive’ – State’s COVID Test Not Cleared By FDA

READ ALSO: Same COVID Test, Different Results: FDA Examines State Lab ‘Test Results Concerns’

ALSO READ: CBS13 survey: Should rapid test be used to test school athletes?

READ ALSO : Delayed COVID results at school, canceled games and contamination issues

READ ALSO : Are false positives or sensitive tests responsible for spikes in COVID at school?

Continuing responsibility

ALSO READ: Continuing responsibility: investigation report delayed, interview requests refused

READ ALSO : Lawmakers demand answers – What’s the CRPD hiding in the $ 1.7 billion COVID testing lab?

READ ALSO : Theranos trial reveals details of federal investigation into troubled CA’s COVID lab, no-offer contract renewed

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