UNITY — A Sullivan County Health Care part-time employee who tested positive for the novel coronavirus in mid-May has been cleared to return back to work following additional testing.

The unidentified female employee informed Sullivan County officials on Friday, May 22, of her diagnosis after results from a test administered by the National Guard at the Claremont Middle School on Sunday, May 17, came back positive. During that week the individual worked two four-hour shifts on Wednesday, May 20, and Thursday, May 21.

The worker was immediately self-isolated for a minimum of 10 days until the senior living facility, working alongside the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services and Public Health, could “evaluate the situation and determine if anyone else in the facility” was affected, according to Sullivan County Manager Derek Ferland in a news release.

But two new tests that came back negative for COVID-19 administered at Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont have some questioning whether or not the first test was accurate.

In accordance with guidelines offered by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services and Public Health, the employee would only be permitted to return to the senior living facility after two additional and separate tests indicate that she was not carrying the virus. Both subsequent tests revealed that the virus was no longer present.

“Although impossible to say for sure, it is likely that the initial test was a false positive based on the absence of symptoms, and all immediate family members were also tested with negative results,” Ferland said in a Facebook post to county residents. “This is excellent news and we remain hopeful and confident that COVID-19 is not present in the staff or residents of Sullivan County Health Care.”

“We are not sure if this is a result of a false positive. We just can’t tell,” said Sullivan County Health Care Administrator Ted Purdy in a phone conversation with the Eagle Times on Friday. “But the key is to ensure that anyone who tests positive is not able to distribute the disease.”

The employee is expected to return starting this week.

The senior living facility is continuing their efforts to monitor and test employees and residents every 10 days. Ferland announced on Sunday, May 31, that state agencies including the Department of Health of Human Services and Public Health have coordinated a plan with Sullivan County facilities to test 100% of staff and 10% of residents every 10 days.

“This aggressive testing posture will help us stay one-step ahead of the virus and facilitate a rapid response should we get another positive test result,” Ferland said.

Purdy also said that the facility will continue to screen daily with temperature checks at the start and end of each shift and ask questions about travel and contact with others.

With upscaled testing protocol in place, Purdy said that visits with family members are becoming possible again. In an effort to reconnect residents with loved ones in a face-to-face environment, the facility will reinitiate drive-up visits to allow family members to pull up and talk while following appropriate social distancing and other health restrictions starting the week of June 8.

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