Mar 12, 2021 | NEWS | By Aidan Luter | Photo by Maren Greene
It was the middle of Block 5 and a rumor was making its way around campus: The Colorado College Men’s Basketball Team had been quarantined. Again. Supposedly, it was because of a COVID-19 false positive test result. But was this actually true?
“Several of our teams, including men’s basketball, have been affected by the pandemic and quarantines this season,” said Jerry Cross, the Director of Athletics Communications for CC. “That includes limited participation in practices as well as postponed or canceled games.”
The exact number of quarantines are kept confidential, as well as the teams or individuals who experience quarantines. Coaches and players on the CC Men’s Basketball team were unavailable for comment.
However, the question is whether or not these quarantines have been caused by false positive test results. A false positive test result would mean that a COVID-19 nasal swab test produces a positive result (the virus is present in the body), when in fact the person does not have COVID-19.
“In my mind, there’s really no such thing as a false positive,” said Rich Bennett, CC’s Associate Athletics Director for Sport Performance and Well-Being.
Bennett said CC’s testing apparatus is run through Optum, with very strict protocols. Those who operate the testing wear full PPE, and the machine is thoroughly decontaminated after every test.
“The only way that I could see it being truly false positive is if there were some type of contamination,” he said. “I can’t say for sure that there hasn’t been any contamination, but it’s very, very unlikely.”
Bennett went on to say, “I think what’s happening is they’re testing positive. They don’t have symptoms, so they assume it must be negative.”
Maggie Santos, CC’s COVID-19 Emergency Manager, agrees that the rumors of false positive tests are untrue.
“There have been no false positives in the cases we have had this year,” Santos said. “Unfortunately, people believe if they are positive one day and negative a couple days later it is a false positive. Many people are asymptomatic and are reluctant to believe they are carrying the virus.”
Bennett has an explanation for why some students thought they had a false positive test result. His theory is that they may actually be testing positive on the first test, then experiencing a false negative on the second test. This may lead students to believe the first test was faulty when it may have in fact been the second one.
“It seems much more likely that if you had a positive followed by a negative, that is a false negative,” he said. “Meaning the swab did not catch the virus, more so than it being a false positive.”
Santos also provided a reason for the perceived inconsistencies in test results.
“Per the health department, the discrepancies in test results are because the viral load in the body can impact test results,” she said. “We recommend testing between five to seven days after an exposure; this is when the viral load is the highest.”
She also assured students that there are necessary precautions for errors in the system.
“We had a notification of a positive this semester that was a computer error, but not a test error,” she said. “Fortunately, along with the notification to the person taking the test, several entities, including me, review the results when they are released.”
Although quarantines may be inconvenient, Bennett reminds CC students to remember the bigger picture.
“We’ve been very fortunate. We have not had an extremely sick student-athlete from this … but it’s not about us. It’s about eliminating transmission and spread,” he said. “Over 500,000 Americans have been killed from COVID. So that’s the other side of the coin. That’s what I think about as we’ve made the decisions that we make.”