Hawaii’s first death presumed to be related to COVID-19 turned out to be an error.

“Internal communication of a COVID-19 test at the Deptartment of Health resulted in a report being misread and initiated a retest of samples today from an Oahu adult, who died on March 20th,” the department said in an emailed statement. Tuesday evening, a second test returned negative for COVID-19.

Department of Health Director Bruce Anderson 14 day quarantine.
Department of Health Director Bruce Anderson said the department takes deaths very seriously and state labs will verify COVID-19 specimen testing from private laboratories for accuracy. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

DOH Director Bruce Anderson said the department was making an effort to get the news out in a timely manner.

“I accept all responsibility for not verifying reporting procedures,” he said. “We’re immediately instituting measures to ensure this doesn’t happen again. My condolences to the family and friends of the person who passed away and our apologies for any undue anxiety this caused.”

The test first conducted by a private laboratory was inconclusive, and the state laboratories were notified and began to verify it about two days after the death.

“We have developed a policy to require retesting of samples because we want to ensure our results are accurate,” Anderson said Tuesday.

Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist, said Tuesday the clinical management, regardless of whether the person had COVID-19 or not, would have been the same.

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