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VOL. 44 | NO. 36 | Friday, September 4, 2020

Virus testing lab suspended by state after false positives

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BOSTON (AP) — 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.

An Orig3n spokesman told Gannett New England, which first reported the story last week, that the false positives were due to "human error" at the beginning of the laboratory testing process that caused some tests to become contaminated.

The spokesperson, Tony Plohoros, said the lab is working with state health officials to correct problems at the facility.

About 60 nursing homes have been clients of the lab, state authorities said.

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SOMERVILLE MOVES TO PHASE 3

The Boston suburb of Somerville on Tuesday became the last community in the state to allow gyms, martial arts studios, music classes and some other businesses to reopen under the third phase of the state's coronavirus recovery.

While virtually the entire state moved into the third phase in July, Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone proceeded with caution, twice pushing back phase 3, citing a raise in the number of cases and the continued dangers of the virus.

Businesses reopening Tuesday must meet strict safety requirements and have a city-approved health and safety plan, the mayor's office said in a statement last week.

Museums, movie theaters, and interactive attractions are still not allowed to reopen.

Somerville also continues to limit the number of people allowed to gather in one place either indoors or outdoors to 10.

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UPDATED STATISTICS

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.

The number of people in the hospital with the disease Tuesday was up to 368, with 47 of those patients in intensive care.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Massachusetts has declined over the past two weeks, going from almost 373 on Aug. 24 to nearly 336 on Monday, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Massachusetts dropped over the past two weeks, going from 2.06% on Aug. 24 to 1.59% on Monday, Johns Hopkins said.

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