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Sept. 6, 2020

COVID-19 Retest Shows Some Student-Athletes, Others Had False Positives

TUCSON, Ariz. — On Thursday, Arizona Athletics reported a single-day high of positive COVID-19 test results for student-athletes. After concluding an exhaustive contact-tracing protocol, the medical director for Arizona Athletics requested additional testing of the samples, stating that the contact history reports did not support the positive test results.

After further review, Arizona Athletics Director of Medical Services Dr. Stephen Paul said conflicting information prompted a rerun of the test samples. The retest showed that false positive results were previously reported.

On Sept. 3, Arizona Athletics reported 13 positives for student-athletes. Upon rerun of those tests, only two athletes were found to have positive results.

In addition, 12 positive tests of non-athletes collected at Campus Health were rerun, and only eight remained positive.

The lab attributes the incorrect results to an instrumentation error and will perform a full audit of testing processes.

"Of course, I am not pleased that we initially reported false positive tests, but I am proud of the protocols put in place in our testing program that enabled Dr. Paul to uncover this issue," said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins, who is also a cardiothoracic surgeon. "As we do more comprehensive testing, both on and off campus, it is incumbent on our team to display the same determination and integrity that led to this result. I also want to acknowledge the student-athletes impacted and apologize to them and their families for this disruption in their lives."

The student-athletes and athletics staff have been notified of the error. Out of an abundance of caution, Arizona Athletics samples will be re-collected on Tuesday for retesting. Based on the reconfirmation of results, sports programs, including women's soccer, will resume normal reentry activities on Wednesday.

The 12 people who initially tested positive at Campus Health will undergo an additional antigen test to reconfirm their results as well.

"We communicated with all those impacted and apologized for the error," Paul said. "The one positive that has come out of this process has been the reinforcement of our commitment to our contact-tracing protocols. Because of the honesty and engagement of the participants, we were able to determine there was a potential error in our process. This also demonstrates the commitment by the student-athletes to the protocols is working."

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Media contacts:
Pam Scott
University Communications
Office: 520-621-1951 | Cell: 509-570-4610

Daniel Berk
Arizona Athletics

The University of Arizona, a land-grant university with two independently accredited medical schools, is one of the nation's top public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Established in 1885, the university is widely recognized as a student-centric university and has been designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. The university ranked in the top 20 in 2018 in research expenditures among all public universities, according to the National Science Foundation, and is a leading Research 1 institution with $687 million in annual research expenditures. The university advances the frontiers of interdisciplinary scholarship and entrepreneurial partnerships as a member of the Association of American Universities, the 65 leading public and private research universities in the U.S. It benefits the state with an estimated economic impact of $4.1 billion annually. For the latest on the University of Arizona response to the novel coronavirus, visit the university's COVID-19 webpage.