Arctic Canada: top doctor apologizes for Nunavut’s false positive COVID-19 case

Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, apologized on Monday for the false positive that last week indicated COVID-19 had arrived in the territory. (Beth Brown/CBC)
Further test results on a person believed to have been Nunavut’s first case of COVID-19 have come back negative, prompting an apology from the territory’s top doctor.

Nunavut said Thursday a person had tested positive in Pond Inlet, a community of just over 1,600 people on the northeastern coast of Baffin Island. But a second test showed it was a false positive, according to a government news release sent Monday. There are now no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the territory.

“Last week’s result from Pond Inlet was re-tested and deemed a false positive,” the news release states.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said this kind of double testing is part of the process, but also apologized.

“I’d like to apologize to Pond Inlet for the inconvenience we caused them — I caused them. And thank them for their hard work and co-operation,” he said at a Monday news conference.

WATCH | News conference on false positive:

Patterson said false positives depend a lot on the testing machine itself, and also how much COVID-19 is in the community being assessed.

“False positives are an issue that every jurisdiction has dealt with,” said Patterson.

He added that all labs experience false positives, so the result is not due to human error.

“That’s something that happens with all lab tests,” he said.

Premier Joe Savikataaq told CBC’s radio show Qulliq on Monday morning that all swab results — collected through contact tracing in the community by a rapid response health team — came back over the weekend. They tested negative.

Premier Joe Savikataaq said all swab tests done for contact tracing came back negative. ( Beth Brown/CBC )

“We believe the individual in Pond Inlet does not and never did have COVID-19,” Patterson said Monday.

He said the person involved has not been outside of Pond Inlet for some time, and contact tracing showed no one connected to that person had COVID-19. There is also is no increase in respiratory illnesses in the community.

The rapid response team is now leaving the community.

As of Monday 266 people are under investigation for COVID-19 in Nunavut and 437 are cleared.

Territory-wide public health restrictions remain in place, but additional safety restrictions related to the case in Pond Inlet are lifted.

Beth Brown, CBC News

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