Watch CBS News

CBS13 Investigation Reveals Thousands of Inconclusive COVID Results From New State Lab

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — California's health secretary, Dr. Mark Ghaly, confirmed CBS13's findings Tuesday after we uncovered a surprisingly high number of inconclusive test results coming out of the state's new COVID testing lab in its first week.


THE COVID LAB: State Secrets Exposed

Ghaly Confirms High Number Of Inconclusive Results

"We did identify that a higher number than expected (number) of tests in the first week came back inconclusive," Ghaly said at his weekly public briefing Tuesday in response to questions from CBS13 investigative reporter Julie Watts.

Watts's family was among the first to have their COVID test results processed by the state's new lab. Two out of their four results came back inconclusive, and they were not alone.

While the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has not responded to requests for the total number of inconclusive tests from the new state lab, Placer County did provide CBS13 with local data that indicates that one out of every 13 Placer County COVID-19 test results processed by the new lab in its first week, came back inconclusive.

ALSO READ: CBS13 Investigates - How Is California's New COVID Testing Lab Doing In Its First Week?

This came as a surprise to the director of Nevada's public health lab, Mark W. Pandori, who commented on CBS13's results when CDPH would not.

"We do get inconclusive results, all labs do, it's just that they are rare," Pandori said.

In fact, the percent of inconclusive results that Placer County got from the state lab last week was 61 times higher than the percentage of inconclusive results that Placer County has received from all labs since the start of the pandemic.

CONTINUING COVERAGE: CBS13 Investigates Problems at California's COVID Testing Lab

Dr. Ghaly said that the state believes they have identified the problem.

Inconclusive Tests Due to Lack of Chemical Reaction, State Says

"One of the validation steps, that confirms that the necessary chemical reaction to run the test, didn't occur for some of those inconclusive tests. We've identified some of the issues with why they didn't occur and have since corrected it," Ghaly said.

"We feel like we're on the road to having fewer inconclusive tests so that the lab can do what it was meant to do," Ghaly added, "which was provide timely information about someone's COVID status to equip public health departments and other entities to track the transmission of disease."

He urged anyone with inconclusive results to get re-tested. "We will, through our own efforts, try to expedite the results," he said.

Promises of "Expedited Results"

The state's $1.7 billion contract with PerkinElmer requires the lab return results in 24 to 48 hours.

However, five days after Watts's son was retested, and nine days after his original inconclusive test, his re-test results also came back inconclusive.

Her husband finally received his results five days after his initial test. They were also inconclusive. He was still waiting for the re-test results as of this writing, five days after his retest.

As of this update, the new lab had not provided either her husband or her son with conclusive results after 13 days and four tests total.

NOTE: This story was updated to include subsequent testing result details. 




The Whistleblower Investigation

Asleep At the Lab: Whistleblower Allegations From Inside CA's Billion-Dollar COVID Lab


CA's Billion-Dollar COVID Testing Lab Under Investigation Following CBS13 Whistleblower Report


Questionable COVID Results – More Concerning Whistleblower Allegations From State COVID Lab


PerkinElmer Sues Whistleblower After Allegations About Troubled CA COVID Testing Lab


Regulators Find 'Significant Deficiencies' At CA COVID Testing Lab – Whistleblowers Respond


The Troubled Test

State COVID Test Not FDA Authorized



Same COVID Test, Different Results: FDA Looking Into State Lab 'Test Result Concerns'


CBS13 Investigates: Should Rapid Test Be Used To Test School Athletes?


Delayed School COVID Results, Canceled Games and Contamination Concerns


Are False Positives or Sensitive Tests Responsible For School COVID Spikes?


CA COVID LAB Returns Fewer Than 1 Out Of 5 Results Within Required 48hrs During Omicron Surge


Continued Accountability

Continued Accountability: Delayed Investigation Report, Denied Interview Requests


Lawmakers Demand Answers –What's CDPH Hiding At The $1.7B COVID Testing Lab?


Theranos Trial Reveals Details of Federal Investigation at Troubled CA COVID Lab, No-Bid Contract Renewed


State Inspections Confirm Whistleblower Allegations At Troubled California COVID Lab


Lab Experts Criticize State's Response To Risk Of 'Serious Injury, Harm or Death' At CA COVID Testing Lab


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.