KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (WATE) — George and Lottie Richardson have taken several precautions to avoid COVID-19 ahead of their long-planned Caribbean cruise. The cruise line they chose requires two things: proof of vaccination and a negative test within days of departure.
They followed Carnival Cruise’s procedure, but when the test results were read, they had tested positive for the virus. The positive tests would have left their daughter Jourdan and other family members without them.
“This was a rapid COVID-19 test administered through the nose,” Lottie said. “And you can wait while you’re in the office to get the results of it; that’s the quick part.”
George said neither he nor Lottie showed any symptoms of the virus and that both had been fully vaccinated. They had their vaccination cards as proof.
“You’re both positive, you and your wife,” George said. “I didn’t say anything to them, but I think to myself: this is not possible.”
“That was devastating because we felt that was not possible for us,” said Lottie. “We’re not going to work; we are home. We’ve been locked up since it all started. It’s just been George and I.”
When they started searching, they found a drive-thru free COVID-19 testing site on Cumberland Avenue that offered the PCR nasal swab test. No appointment was needed and the results would take approximately 15 minutes.
“They found the results and they were negative, which didn’t surprise me,” George said.
The family was able to enjoy their cruise together and no one was sick. However, they wondered why they were found positive and negative on the same day, just hours apart.
We asked Dr. Eric Penniman, medical director of Summit Medical Group. Summit Medical has not tested George or Lottie.
“So in this case, the pair had two false positives, each with a false positive,” Penniman said. “So we know that the specificity of even the rapid COVID test is really good, it’s about ninety-seven percent. This means that the chance of a false positive is only about three percent. So each of them ended up with a false positive, which is a pretty unusual scenario.
Penniman said the Richardsons did the right thing in looking for another test.
“It’s fine that they did the rapid test, but it’s quite unusual for them both to get false positives.”
Penniman said interpreting the results of a COVID-19 test depends on two things: the accuracy of the test and the likelihood before testing, or the estimated risk of disease before testing.
The risk of illness for the Richardsons was low because they were fully vaccinated, avoided crowds, wore masks when in public places, and had no symptoms of the virus.
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