COVID-19 test result mix-up puts family at risk

Joslyn Ewing-Brown was wrongly told she had contracted COVID-19; actually, it was her mother who had the coronavirus.

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Joslyn Ewing-Brown (left) and her mother Joslyn Ewing had their COVID-19 tests mixed up at Roseland Community Hospital,

Joslyn Ewing-Brown (left) and her mother Joslyn Ewing had their COVID-19 tests mixed up at Roseland Community Hospital.


Joslyn Ewing-Brown believes she and her two children were put at risk after Roseland Community Hospital mistakenly told her she had tested positive for the deadly virus COVID-19.

That positive test actually was from her mother, whose name is Joslyn Ewing. And Ewing-Brown didn’t find out about the mix-up for a full day.

Ewing-Brown was told by the hospital she couldn’t be around her children and she should immediately self-quarantine. They also suggested a family member look after her kids in the meantime, so her mother — the person who actually had tested positive — came to get her two grandsons.

“My kids were having a blast at their grandma’s for that whole day, they were hugging and embracing her, not knowing that she was the one actually sick,” Ewing-Brown said. “This is really scary.”

Roseland Community Hospital launched its drive-thru testing April 3, and Ewing-Brown and Ewing thought it would be a good idea to go. The elder Ewing had been diagnosed with viral pneumonia before widespread COVID-19 testing was available in Chicago, and she wanted to see if it was caused by the virus.

Ewing had to wait in line about two hours for her test. She then went home and told her daughter to get tested.

“I asked them directly if there would be any problems with the fact my mom was tested earlier because we have the same name,” Ewing-Brown said. “They assured me it wouldn’t be because our date of births were on the labels.”

Four days later, the hospital called Ewing-Brown to say she had tested positive for COVID-19. She asked if there had been a mix-up; they assured her again there wasn’t.

“Then the next day, they called me again saying I was negative,” Ewing-Brown said. “I asked how was this possible if I got a call saying I was positive? I then asked again if my results were mixed up with my mom’s and they said they couldn’t answer that.”

Ewing-Brown called her mother and told her what happened. So Ewing called the hospital and learned she had tested positive.

Now Ewing-Brown fears her sons, ages 5 and 11, were put in danger by spending the day with their grandmother.

“It’s scary because being self-employed I don’t have health care for my children, and I pretty much pay out-of-pocket for their health expenses,” Ewing-Brown said. “As a mom, I am trying to figure out: How do I care for them if they get sick? How can I afford any treatment if they need it?”

The mix-up also threatens her livelihood, Ewing-Brown said. She runs a day care for the children of essential workers. When she wrongly told her clients she had contracted the virus, they all dropped her.

“It was really a ripple effect,”Ewing-Brown said. Roseland “never even said ‘sorry,’ or ‘come back and get tested,’” she said.

Roseland CEO Tim Egan said the hospital is working to get better in what is uncharted territory.

“We can’t follow a playbook, so we are actually writing the playbook,” Egan said in a statement. “As Covid-19 testing evolves so do we by adapting and improving our process.”

The hospital has conducted over 5,000 COVID-19 tests since it launched its drive-thru screening operation two weeks ago.

Manny Ramos is a corps member inReport for America,a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.

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