At least 130 COVID-19 false positives turn up at lab

Mistakes large enough to lower Fall River, Taunton risk levels

STATE PUBLIC HEALTH officials rolled back the COVID-19 risk status of Fall River and Taunton on Friday after it was discovered a commercial lab had reported a large number of false positive test results.

Fall River went from the red, or high-risk, level (8.4 cases per 100,000 people) to yellow, or moderate risk (7.4 cases per 100,000). Taunton went from yellow (6.5 cases per 100,000) to green, or low risk (3.2 cases per 100,000).

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

The Department of Public Health issued a statement saying a commercial lab it did not identify had a disproportionate number of false positive test results over a three-day period. The agency said about 700 tests are being rechecked. So far, the agency said, 460 tests have been redone, turning up 130 false positives.

Officials said the case numbers for other municipalities may change, but, with the exception of Fall River and Taunton, they did not expect their risk level to move.

The latest risk levels issued by the state covered the two-week period ending August 8. Presumably, the lab’s three-day issue with false positives occurred sometime during that time period.