Feb 12, 2021 | NEWS | By Isaac Yee | Illustration by Bibi Powers

Colorado College accidentally put three students into quarantine on Feb. 10 after a “human input error” turned one student’s negative coronavirus test positive.

The ordeal started Tuesday night when Professor Paul Myrow told his students in GY115, an oceanography course with in-person elements, that someone in the class had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. In an email obtained by The Catalyst, Professor Myrow told the class, “I was informed by a student that they received a positive COVID test. I am unsure exactly how to proceed, but I will get in touch with you shortly.”

On Wednesday, the college asked three students who lived on campus and were considered close contacts of the COVID-positive person to leave their dorms and complete a 10-day quarantine at Bijou West. One of the three students, Joseph Dryer ’23 said a school official initially told him that he was allowed to quarantine in his room, but shortly after that call, school officials called back and asked him to leave campus immediately.

“The whole process was not thought through and it was very distressing,” Dryer said.

On Thursday afternoon, students were dealt another shock when Professor Myrow emailed and told the students that “the positive COVID test for the student in question was, in fact, negative and that the problem was due to a computer glitch.” He added that the student had since received a second COVID test with a negative result.

Dryer was subsequently contacted by Campus Safety and told he was allowed to leave quarantine.

Contrary to what Professor Myrow initially told students, the false-positive test was not due to a “computer glitch” but instead caused by a “human input error” according to Maggie Santos, CC’s COVID-19 Emergency Manager. Following the incident, Santos told The Catalyst, “we will continue to review all test results on a daily basis.”

“If they can accidentally turn a negative test positive, they could easily turn a positive test negative, and the consequences for that would be much more severe,” Dryer said.

When asked about this possibility, Santos said the college does a “check” of each test and quarantines student, staff, and faculty to prevent the spread of the virus. “As additional information is collected … we will at times release people if they are found not to be exposed,” Santos said.

“The whole situation was very disruptive and very frustrating, but I can understand the position and precautions that the school took. I hope that they learn from this,” Dryer, who is now back on campus, said.

Leave a Reply