Italian health officials admitted to a testing error on Wednesday, Oct. 20, revealing that they provided inaccurate results on the COVID-19 outbreak on the University of Dallas Due Santi campus.
The inaccuracy led to an overstatement of the actual number of positive cases, with 29 individuals actually positive for the virus, rather than the originally reported 59.
In an email from Oct. 20, Rome Program Director Dr. Peter Hatlie called the mistake an “egregious if uncharacteristic miscarriage of duty.”
“We are of course relieved and reassured that the number of positive cases is some 40% lower within our community than reported yesterday,” said Hatlie. “We are also grateful that a vast majority of our campus residents are either in excellent health—whether positive or not—or subject to very mild COVID-19 symptoms.”
One staff member has mild symptoms and none of the students have fevers, according to the email. The three students who came forward with symptoms last week are recovering.
The news of the confused test results comes after a week of reconfiguring the campus to accommodate the outbreak.
On Oct. 12, upon the class’ return from a trip to Southern Italy, six students and one campus guest came forward with symptoms consistent with the coronavirus and were tested, revealing three positive cases. Under pressure from the university, the local health authorities conducted a campus-wide test on Sunday, Oct. 18.
This test revealed a significant outbreak, with roughly 78% of the students testing positive. A day after these test results came back, the government approached the university with their error.
“There are no words to excuse the unforgivable error committed yesterday by our laboratory,” said the director of the local health authority, as translated in Hatlie’s Oct. 20 email.
Some students had premonitions that the initial test results seemed skewed.
“It’s really weird because two of my roommates have the antibodies but still tested positive,” said sophomore Amelia Knapp, a day before the correct test results were released.
“Everyone I talked to thought the initial results weren’t right,” said sophomore Gil Irlbeck. “Very few of those who had initially been diagnosed as positive were experiencing symptoms, while several of the negatives did. A lot of us expected the eventual outcome with the flipped results.”
Sophomore Jillian Josefsberg said that the students are waiting to see how the new results will change their situation.
“Yes, the Italian government made an ‘unprecedented error’ and now we’re all still confined to our rooms. We’re waiting on updated restrictions, but this will probably continue for 10 days,” said Josefsberg. Since the students were already separated between positive and negative students, their dormitory accommodations will not have to be reorganized in light of the new results.
Josefsberg expressed gratitude for the Rome staff, who have clearly and openly communicated the updates to the Rome students and the wider campus community.
“Dr. Hatlie has been incredible, and I think he’s frustrated with the situation, but he has been so unbelievably wonderful. We are so grateful for the Rome staff. They are definitely not at fault and have done a fantastic job trying to make this experience as tolerable as possible,” said Josefsberg.