A Kingman couple say the Mohave County Health Department asked them to keep troubling COVID-19 tests results to themselves.
Catrina Halliburton, of Kingman, told Today’s News-Herald that she was tested for coronavirus on March 13 and received a call on Wednesday from the attending doctor in the emergency room that the preliminary test results came back as a presumptive positive.
“His exact words were, I was a presumptive yes, and that I needed to stay in quarantine and await a call from the public health department,” Halliburton said.
Halliburton’s boyfriend, James Riley, who had been posting updates on Facebook about their experiences in getting Halliburton tested since March 17, then posted that they just received news that Halliburton was the first case of the virus in Mohave County.
About half an hour later, Halliburton said she got a call from the pathologist at KRMC who explained that two swabs were tested. One returned with a positive result but the other test was inconclusive. Halliburton said the pathologist told her that means that the test overall is considered inconclusive and would be sent to, “the golden test site,” for confirmation.
KRMC Communications Director Teri Williams said a presumptive positive test refers to a test in which initial results come back positive, before they are sent to the state laboratory for confirmation. She said she could not comment on any specific cases, but reiterated that there have been no presumptive positive cases in Mohave County.
Mohave County Communication Director Roger Galloway also said he could not comment on the case, citing “patient privacy.”
Riley said after Halliburton spoke with the pathologist, he made another post online saying that they would do a Facebook live stream to give people updates on what was happening. Before they went live, however, he said the Mohave County Public Health Department called and asked them to reconsider.
“The health department called us and really begged us not to do that because they didn’t want it getting out,” he said. “They just told us that we needed to be patient and give them a couple days to get our test sent to another test site.”
“They wanted a new test before they said anything to anyone, anywhere,” Halliburton added.
Galloway said he could not comment on whether or not such a request was made by the county, citing “patient privacy,” but he did comment on the potential ill effects such an action could have.
“People need to be aware of the heightened concern in our community, and especially among our elderly,” Galloway wrote in a press release. “When experiences or opinions are posted on social media, it can cause unnecessary fear and concern.”
Ultimately Riley and Halliburton decided to go ahead with the Facebook live post anyway.
“We just felt that it was important for the public around here to know that this is happening, that there is a very likely possibility that she has it,” Riley said. “Even though we had the test and it didn’t say we were definitely positive, none of the tests came back negative. One came back inconclusive and one came back positive. So in our minds we are going to treat it as if we were positive.”
In a press release on Wednesday KRMC said a patient, whom they did not identify, had test results returned that were, “inconclusive.”
“This means that the COVID-19 has not been ruled out, nor has it been confirmed definitively,” KRMC said in the press release. “At this time, this is not a presumptive positive nor a confirmed positive. However, the patient has been advised to self-quarantine and the case should be managed as positive until further testing determines conclusive results.”
Halliburton said tests for influenza, strep throat, and an upper respiratory infection all came back negative. Riley said in the last few days he has started showing coronavirus symptoms as well, as has one of their children.
“My concern isn’t that we are not going to live through this. I know we are going to live through this – we are fairly healthy people. What I worry about is the people we have been around. That is why we put it out there,” Riley said. “How am I supposed to sit here, knowing that we could have infected thousands of people, and not say a word?”
Halliburton said that she is particularly concerned about letting people know her situation as soon as possible because she is a server at Cracker Barrel in Kingman, and had come into contact with many people prior to being tested. Riley said the whole family has been in self-quarantine since Halliburton was tested.
Janella Escobar, Head of Corporate Communications at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc., said the company was made aware of the Facebook post and corresponding concerns from some of the other employees in Kingman.
“Immediately, we reached out to local public health authorities, as well as the local hospital,” Escobar said. “We have been working with them and in contact with them to ensure that indeed none of our store employees have been diagnosed or confirmed positive… We are continuing to follow our guidelines, and we spoke with the local health authorities to ensure we were doing everything we needed to do. They reviewed our protocols and we asked them if there was anything else we need to be doing and they said, ‘No. Absolutely we are doing the best thing we can do and using the right protocol.”
Escobar said some of those protocols include more man-hours to ensure surfaces are cleaned frequently, they have started using peroxide to clean everything, which she said is the preferred chemical for killing COVID-19, and Cracker Barrel has removed items from the tables that could not be easily cleaned. A full list of Cracker Barrel’s protocols can be found online at crackerbarrel.com/response.