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The son of a Tennessee woman who died in February got a letter from the Shelby County Health Department this week claiming that she tested positive for COVID-19 in June.
In an interview with WKYC, Troy Whittington said the letter surprised him when he opened it Thursday but he, of course, immediately knew it was incorrect.
“I’m just having a hard time understanding how they can say someone has COVID-19 when they are not even alive,” he told the station.
The county health department’s letter to Sandra Whittington informed her she was positive for the virus and instructed her to begin a period of isolation, normally two weeks.
But the mysterious letter isn’t just wrong, it is grossly ill-timed; Sandra Whittington died February 16, which was weeks before the first COVID-19 case was detected in the county.
“It’s been six months, almost seven since she passed away. There was no testing that was done at that time. On her death certificate, it was stated she died, what the cause of death was, and it was not COVID-19. It was COPD,” Troy Whittington explained, using the acronym for “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.”
One principle symptom of the novel coronavirus is shortness of breath, however.
That said, the son told WKYC his mother had long battled the condition. He said she was considered to be in stage 4 at the time of her death and was being cared for by hospice providers.
But the story gets even more mysterious.
Whittington said he called the county health department to inquire about the letter and said he was told his mother took a COVID test on June 20. But even a post-mortem test would be impossible, as Sandra Whittington was cremated.
“It’s impossible for someone to be tested on June 20, who passed away on February 16th,” said Whittington.
“I tried to call the health department this morning, ask them why this was going on. She said she would have to get a supervisor. She was sorry for the mistake or she couldn’t tell me any information till she got a supervisor, and I haven’t heard back from them,” he told WKYC.
He added that the huge error makes him not only distrust the Shelby County Health Department but overall coronavirus figures and stats across the country.
“I would just like for the health department to be more accurate,” he said. “They have a record of her death there. That is where I got the death certificate from and it’s in the same building they’re sending out saying she is positive, which is not possible.”
He also wanted to know why, had his mom been alive and tested, it took so long for the test results to be mailed out.
“We’re talking two months later. She needs to be quarantined for 10, well we’ve got 60 days from the time of the test to get the letter out to her which is unacceptable,” he said.
In a statement to the station, the health department said its director, Dr. Alisa Haushalter, would be reaching out to Whittington “to apologize on behalf of the Health Department about the mistake and the additional pain it might have caused the family.
“She also states that new protocols will be put in place to make sure a mistake like this doesn’t happen again in the future,” the statement added.
In addition to lingering questions about the actual number of coronavirus cases, the initial models forecasting millions of deaths from COVID-19 were also widely inflated.
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