Toronto woman fights to set record straight after false positive COVID-19 test

When Kirsti Stephenson heard back from Shoppers Drug Mart Saturday that she had tested positive for COVID-19, she says she was terrified her elderly parents would get the disease too.

“So I had to call my dad, my poor, wonderful, supportive elderly father, and tell him he has to go and get tested because I may have given him COVID,” Stephenson said. “The day before I was with my mom and I was wearing a mask, but I was talking to her close. I would not be able to live with myself if I somehow gave her this horrible disease.”

Stephenson was also baffled as to how she contracted the virus. She helps care for her mom Carole as an essential visitor at her long-term care home., She’s fully vaccinated, had no COVID-19 symptoms and strictly follows all public health guidelines to protect her parents.

She gets tested weekly at a Toronto Shoppers and clears rapid testing and temperature check screening every other day at her mom’s nursing home — both required for her to continue to be an essential visitor.

After the Shoppers positive test, Stephenson got tested two more times. Both came back negative. 

Toronto Public Health agreed she wasn’t infected with the novel coronavirus and would no longer have to quarantine, Stephenson said. 

But she’s now left dealing with a false positive in her medical file with no way to set the record straight.

Shoppers testing no longer an option

As long as there’s a positive test in her records, she is no longer eligible for asymptomatic testing at Shoppers, its parent company Loblaw confirmed to CBC News in an email Wednesday.

Stephenson says it’s “incredibly unfair” she can not longer rely on that routine service, which is minutes from her house and would give her the option to book appointments ahead of time.

Toronto Public Health and Shoppers Drug Mart haven’t been able to help or provide a letter to say she never had COVID-19. 

“This is going to be a scarlet C tattooed on my chest forever unless I get into contact with someone that has the power, or authority or the intellect to help me somehow,” she said. 

Toronto Public Health says it doesn’t comment on specific cases and the province is in charge of testing.

The Ministry of Health referred CBC News to its case management document, which says in situations where there’s evidence the person is unlikely to be infectious, public health can discontinue case and contact management.

But a person’s test record will only be updated to reflect the false positive if public health identifies an issue at the lab. 

“I appreciate that tests are not perfect and there’s also a human error factor,” Stephenson said. 

“But what is concerning to me is I don’t know if there’s a lot of people out there that this is happening to or if this is a situation that is very unique.” 

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