NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Department of Health confirmed that a “coding error” resulted in an estimated 300 people being incorrectly told they were traced as positive COVID-19 cases, instead of being tracked as people who had only come in contact with a person who was sick.
Brock Ballou, a Mount Juliet father, was repeatedly told by contact tracers that he was positive for COVID-19, even though he had never even taken a test.
“Everyone makes mistakes, but this is a big error when it comes to a pandemic like this and told that they are positive," Ballou said. "I know I’m not the only one. And that’s irritating."
The Department of Health said that the error was discovered and corrected within 24 hours.
A spokeswoman for the department said that a coding error led to an estimated 300 people being told they were being monitored as positive COVID-19 cases when they should have been told they were being monitored as coming into contact with a person who had COVID-19.
“People should have been notified they were a contact but were being called as if they were a case. No one was given incorrect test results,” said Shelley Walker, spokeswoman for the Department of Health.
But Ballou said he was given wrong information.
“To me, it’s upsetting to the fact that I don’t know how it works – what’s the incentive of having so many numbers? That’s what I feel is going on. And that’s what I want to know why,” Ballou said.
The state reports that the number of positive cases they release to the public each date comes from labs, not from the data shared with contact tracers.
It’s also unclear how many of the 300 were, or were not, positive at the time contact tracers reached out to them.
Because of how easily the virus spreads, by the time contact tracers spoke to the 300, many of them may have tested positive.
While Ballou has never been tested, it is unclear how many of the 300 were also asymptomatic and therefore never got tested. He also said he has not been contacted by state officials about the error.
“At this point I honestly don’t know what to think,” Ballou said.