Miscommunication over COVID-19 test result shuts down day care in North Port

Published: August 4, 2020 7:28 PM EDT
Updated: August 9, 2020 1:56 PM EDT

An incorrect positive coronavirus test led to a Southwest Florida day care closing, losing income and forcing people to take off work. The business wants to know what went wrong.

Four-year-old Greyson Lopez is one of two dozen students who returned to the classrooms at North Port’s Treehouse Children’s Academy after it was closed for months.

But, then, Greyson started feeling sick.

“He down spiraled,” said Mario Lopez, Greyson’s father. “He started getting even worse. He wasn’t eating.”

So Lopez took his son to a coronavirus testing site in Lee County. He says the health department there called him back with the results as positive.

“After opening for two weeks, we had to close again,” said Elizabeth Randol, the owner of the academy. “We had a phone call from a parent letting us know that his child had tested positive.”

Randol notified the health department in Sarasota County.

“We received a call from an epidemiologist from the Sarasota County health department,” Randol said. “They were very adamant that the whole center had to close for 14 days.”

“I told them that we would comply with whatever they asked for because, like I said, we’re all trying to be as responsible as we can,” Randol went on.

The Florida Department of Health says it never ordered the academy in North Port to close but advised how to work with staff and students potentially exposed.

“Every time we turn around, it’s a different story,” Randol said. “And I think that’s the major frustration for a lot of people right now.”

But Randol’s business still shut its doors after learning a student tested positive, and parents took their children to get tested.

“It just breaks my heart because that is a very invasive and painful test,” Randol said.

Not to mention, parents had to take time off to get their child tested and perhaps had to stay home because they didn’t have childcare.

Lopez told us he needed a copy of the results in writing for his work, frustrated after days of unreturned phone calls. Finally, he drove down to a Lee County test site for answers, soon getting a phone call from the health department in Lee County.

“She goes, ‘OK, your son was never tested positive. Your son tested negative. The nurse that originally called you, she made a mistake,’” Lopez explained.

The department of health won’t tell us the test results due to patient privacy protection laws but says it called and emailed Lopez the results three times about a week after reporting the results verbally.

“This was really a bad miscommunication and affected a lot of people,” Lopez said.

“We want to be able to have an answer, so we can proceed and move forward,” Randol said.

The department of health said it normally provides documentation to childcare centers with positive cases in COVID-19. But, in this case, there are no positive cases at Treehouse Children’s Academy.