UPDATE: Helen Porter COVID case was a false positive; no cases at local nursing home

MIDDLEBURY — Porter Medical Center officials on Thursday afternoon reported that the positive COVID-19 test result at the Helen Porter Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center was erroneous, and no one at the nursing home has the disease caused by coronavirus.

Ron Hallman, vice president for Communications and Engagement at UVM Health Network/Porter Medical Center, said that after the positive test result surfaced late last week, Helen Porter quickly tested all of its residents and staffs for COVID-19, and they all came back negative.

“In addition, review of the circumstances of the person who tested positive, spurred another test of the positive sample. That re-test found the initial result was a false positive,” Hallman said in a Thursday afternoon email to Porter staff. “This negative result was confirmed in a subsequent sample taken from the person.”

He noted that false positives are rare, but not unheard of.

Since no one there has tested positive, the Vermont Health Department suspended the facility-wide testing that it began Thursday morning. But, because some samples had already been collected, the department will still process them “as a courtesy to those who took the time and trouble to have them taken,” Hallman wrote.

This past Friday, Aug. 21, Porter officials reported that one Helen Porter Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center resident had tested positive for COVID-19. Porter officials notified all the residents, family members of residents and staff of the case, which was discovered as a result of a facility-wide Phase 1 testing initiative recommended by the Department of Health. The resident was asymptomatic and put in quarantine, as were employees who came in contact with the resident.

After testing all the residents late last week, Helen Porter planned to test them again today, and again next week. That testing has been called off.

Hallman today noted that Porter has procedures for comprehensive efforts to test, isolate and conduct contact tracing to ensure that any possibility of virus in the rehab and long-term-care facility can be quickly contained, and that anyone affected can receive the care and support they need.

He thanked everyone for their cooperation in following the protocols to stay safe and healthy.

“Though we did not, in fact, experience a case of COVID-19 at the facility this week, as we know, vigilance is critical to continued protection,” Hallman wrote. “The rapid response by Helen Porter, Porter Hospital and our lab teams to investigate and act demonstrated our readiness and the wisdom of the protocols we have in place for all our safety.”

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Addison County Independent

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