A Boston-based coronavirus testing lab that counts dozens of nursing homes among its clients has been suspended by the state after it returned nearly 400 false positive tests, state officials say.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health opened an investigation in early August after it became aware of an unusually high positive rate of COVID-19 tests reported by Orig3n Laboratory, the agency said in a statement Tuesday.
Retests found at least 383 false positives that were actually negative.
The state late last month notified Orig3n of “three significant certification deficiencies that put patients at immediate risk of harm,” including failure of the lab’s director to provide overall management and a failure to document the daily sanitizing of equipment used for coronavirus testing.
The state issued the genetics lab a statement of deficiency last Friday, and the lab must now respond with a written plan of correction by Sept. 14, according to the department.
In a COVID-19 update, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh says testing will continue in Central Square Park through Saturday and there were no new deaths in Boston for the past two days. He also answers questions about running for re-election.
Orig3n CEO Robin Smith said in a statement that false positives were detected Aug. 1 and suspended testing at the Boston lab a week later, retesting samples internally and at an outside lab.
“We then put a plan in place to prevent future incidents. We’re currently working with the state of MA to finalize steps that will enable us to resume testing in our Boston lab,” Smith said.
Gannett New England first reported the story last week.
About 60 nursing homes have been clients of the lab, state authorities said.
The president of the University of New Hampshire put out a strongly-worded statement, saying in part, the Aug. 29 party is “reprehensible and will not be tolerated.”
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health on Tuesday reported 168 newly confirmed coronavirus cases and eight additional fatalities.
There have now been more than 121,000 confirmed cases in the state and 8,900 deaths.