Yasmine Halmane, Contributing Photographer

Students in Morse and Stiles colleges who were tested for COVID-19 on Friday afternoon were alerted on Monday that there was an error regarding the delivery of their samples and that their tests could not be processed.

Alexa Martindale, testing operations manager at Yale Health, alerted affected students of the problem with their COVID-19 tests in an email sent on early Monday afternoon. While the University is investigating the cause of this mix-up, no other samples from Friday were impacted. In the email, students whose Friday tests were not processed were urged to continue their scheduled Tuesday and Friday testing pattern.

“While this kind of error is never good, our frequent surveillance testing means that missing one test is unlikely to have a major impact,” Madeline Wilson, chair of the Yale COVID-19 Testing and Tracing Committee and chief quality officer at Yale Health, wrote in an email to the News. “Fortunately problems of this sort are very rare occurrences.”

According to Wilson, the samples were readied for delivery to the Broad Institute — the laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that processes all asymptomatic testing for the University. Wilson said the tests “were apparently delivered to the appropriate pick up location for delivery to the Broad” Institute. However, the tests were not delivered to the lab that night, lost somewhere in between preparation for delivery and arrival at the Broad Institute.

Wilson did not immediately respond to a request for comment about how many tests were impacted by the error.

One of those tests belonged to Morse resident James Wang ’23. On Friday morning, one of Wang’s suitemates received a positive test result and headed to isolation housing in Bingham Hall on Old Campus. Wang was tested at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, and the contact tracer told him that he could potentially receive the test result on Friday night or Saturday morning.

He began packing for a move to isolation housing, assuming that his suitemate would inevitably have infected him.

“I was just basically waiting for the test to confirm,” Wang said. “For the most part, I knew my fate like I was probably going to go into isolation housing. … It was pretty stressful because I was kind of hyper-aware of everything that went on in my body more than before.”

Wang told the News that after hearing that his suitemate had tested positive, he immediately began to imagine any discomfort he felt was a coronavirus symptom.

But the results never came. On Saturday and Sunday, he monitored MyChart — Yale Health’s online patient portal — and kept his phone around. By Monday, another one of his suitemates, Marcus Woods ’24, messaged the testing provider to make sure the tests were being processed. About an hour later, they received the broader email sent to all affected about the testing error.

Woods said he also checked MyChart several times an hour over the weekend. He said he felt “disgruntled” and “antsy” to see if he had contracted the coronavirus.

By Monday, the suitemate in isolation housing had received two negative tests after initially testing positive, and Wang now assumes that his suitemate received a false positive. While the suitemate was permitted to leave isolation housing because of this, neither Wang nor Woods have yet received test results due to the delay.

Yale undergraduates are tested twice each week, on either Mondays and Thursdays or Tuesdays and Fridays.

Julia Bialek | julia.bialek@yale.edu

Rose Horowitch | rose.horowitch@yale.edu

Julia Bialek currently serves as a public editor for the Yale Daily News. Previously, she covered the student policy & affairs beat as a reporter on the university desk. Originally from Chappaqua, New York, Julia is a junior in Saybrook College studying political science and history.
Rose Horowitch covers Woodbridge Hall. She previously covered sustainability and the University's COVID-19 response. She is a sophomore in Davenport College majoring in history.