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Dolores schools announce one COVID-19 case, 4 previous false positives

One Dolores Elementary School student currently has COVID-19, Superintendent Reece Blincoe said Wednesday.
County Health Department: It’s the first time so many occurred at once

The Dolores School District RE-4A currently has one student who has tested positive for COVID-19, two weeks after four students received false positive results, Superintendent Reece Blincoe said Wednesday.

The current virus-positive individual is a student at Dolores Elementary School. There have been few resulting quarantines, he said.

“In my opinion, we’re doing really well,” Blincoe said, adding, “at any time that could change.”

He said he knew of no hospitalizations due to COVID-19, he said.

The positive case follows four false positive results near the end of August.

“Initially, we were scrambling,” Blincoe said. “It couldn’t have been a more perfect storm.”

The district implemented contact tracing and quarantines at its four schools and shut down its Horse bus route, he said.

It then received calls from the county Health Department explaining that the tests were actually false positives.

The district posted an announcement Aug. 23 informing families of one COVID-19 case each in Dolores Elementary and Teddy Bear Preschool.

The same day, a statement was made on the website explaining that one of the cases was found to be a false positive.

An Aug. 24 announcement alerted families that all four the cases ended up being false positives, and cleared students to return to school the next day.

The district recommends masks, but allows them to be optional for students and staff, according to protocols updated Aug. 24.

Blincoe apologized for the inconvenience, but said the district was able to refine its COVID-19 procedures, including bus protocols.

“In hindsight, we learned a lot,” he said. “It was a good awakening for us.”

According to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, as of Thursday, 96.83% of virus tests administered in Montezuma County were polymerase chain reaction tests, which detect genetic material from an organism, such as a virus. Serology tests, which look for antibodies in blood, made up 3.17% of tests performed.

A total of 45,905 tests have been administered in Montezuma County. There have been 2,431 positive cases in the county, and 31 total deaths, according to that state data.

CDPHE has reported 40 new cases and two new deaths in Montezuma County since Sept. 1.

A Real-Time PCR test fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states: “There is a smaller possibility that this test can give a positive result that is wrong (a false positive result) particularly when used in a population without many cases of COVID-19 infection.”

“There’s a misconception in the community that we do the testing,” said Laurel Schafer, assistant director of the Montezuma County Public Health Department.

She said Southwest Memorial Hospital handles the testing, and sends the numbers to the county Health department — which then alerts positive individuals and conducts contact tracing. The department does not have a lab for testing, Schafer said.

“We’re basically partners with the hospital,” she said.

She said it’s the first time there have been that many false positives in the county at once.

Schools cause a domino effect, and humans make mistakes, she said.

“I will never say anything negative about the hospital,” she said.