Alaska lab failed to report about 1,600 positive virus cases

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A lab in Alaska failed to report over 1,600 positive coronavirus tests to the state health department in the past month, according to a state official.

Dr. Louisa Castrodale, an epidemiologist with the state, said Friday that Beechtree Labs did not report 1,636 positive test results out of 13,169 tests conducted, most of which were done in the last two weeks. Beechtree is a new commercial lab based out of Anchorage.

The announcement is a sign that climbing daily case counts reported by the state reflect only a part of total cases, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Castrodale said that understaffing at clinics, labs and the state’s Department of Health and Social Services have also caused backlogs that have affected the entire coronavirus data system.

“It’s fair to say that the system is stretched,” Castrodale said.

Coleman Cutchins, a clinical pharmacist who leads the state health department’s testing effort, said that patients and providers still received their test results from Beechtree within two days.

The results not reported to the state include 357 positive cases in Anchorage and 880 positive cases in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

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The state’s health department reported its second-highest single day tally of virus cases on Friday with 735 new confirmed cases.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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