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Hawaii backtracks on first COVID-19 death, says test results were ‘misread’

Hawaii State Capitol Building
Source: Hawaii News Now

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In an embarrassing blunder, the state Department of Health acknowledged Tuesday that test results which led to Hawaii announcing its first coronavirus-related death had been misread ― and the individual did not die of the illness.

“My condolences to the family and friends of the person who passed away and our apologies for any undue anxiety this caused,” said Dr. Bruce Anderson, the director of the state Health Department.

Late Monday night, an email from the state’s COVID-19 Joint Information Center indicated that an unidentified adult resident of Oahu had died on Friday from complications related to the coronavirus.

The person suffered from multiple pre-existing health conditions, the email noted.

State officials said further testing was done on Monday, and those tests ― conducted by the State Laboratories Division, not a private institution ― “confirmed COVID-19."

But after the announcement, it was determined the initial test results had been misinterpreted. A second test for coronavirus was conducted and those results came back negative Tuesday night.

The state did not elaborate on how such a critical mistake was made, saying only that its focus was “to get information out in a timely manner.”

“I accept all responsibility for not verifying reporting procedures," Anderson said. “We’re immediately instituting measures to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

The error comes as the state seeks broad cooperation from Hawaii’s 1.4 million residents in forgoing all but essential tasks and staying at home to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Read more at Hawaii News Now