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Health company apologizes for falsely telling 600,000 US military members they were infected with coronavirus

A healthcare insurance company for members of the U.S. military had to apologize for accidentally telling over 600,000 people that they were infected with the virus when they were not.

Tricare apologized for alarming several hundred thousand people because of a poorly worded email that implied the recipient was a coronavirus survivor. The email went out from Humana Military, a regional manager for Tricare.

“As a survivor of COVID-19, it’s safe to donate whole blood or blood plasma, and your donation could help other COVID-19 patients. Your plasma likely has antibodies (or proteins) present that might help fight the coronavirus infection,” read the email.

“Currently, there is no cure for COVID-19. However, there is information that suggests plasma from COVID-19 survivors, like you, might help some patients recover more quickly from COVID-19,” the email continued.

Six hours later, Humana sent out a correction and an apology over the confusing and erroneous emails.

“In an attempt to educate beneficiaries who live close to convalescent plasma donation centers about collection opportunities, you received an email incorrectly suggesting you were a COVID-19 survivor,” read the email. “You have not been identified as a COVID-19 survivor and we apologize for the error and any confusion it may have caused.” documented the mistake and reported messages on social media from those confused about the email.

“Just wondering [if] anybody [got] an email from Tricare saying since you are a COVID survivor, please donate your plasma.?? I have NOT been tested,” said one person on Facebook. “Just remember all those people inputting data are human and make mistakes.”

Marvin Hill, a spokesperson for Humana, offered a statement to explaining the error.

“Language used in email messages to approximately 600k beneficiaries gave the impression that we were attempting to reach only people who had tested positive for COVID-19. We quickly followed the initial email with a clear and accurate second message acknowledging this. We apologize,” said Hill.

About 31,000 people affiliated with the U.S. military have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, far fewer than the 600,000 reached by the erroneous email.

Some critics of the pandemic lockdown orders have used mistakes in counting and reporting coronavirus cases to bolster their claims that some elements of the government are using the pandemic to damage the president and the Republicans.

Here’s the latest on the coronavirus pandemic:

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Texas Department of Health removes over 3,000 ‘probable’ COVID-19 cases from overall count

The Texas Department of State Health Services removed over 3,000 cases from its statewide COVID-19 cases total because the San Antonio Metro Health District was including probable cases in their case totals.

The Texas Department of Health reported 10,791 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, but admitted they removed thousands more because they were “probable” and not “confirmed.”

Texas health officials removed 3,484 coronavirus cases Wednesday from the state’s total COVID-19 count. The Texas Department of State Health Services made the announcement on its official Facebook page:

“The San Antonio Metro Health District has clarified its reporting to separate confirmed and probable cases, so the Bexar County and statewide totals have been updated to remove 3,484 probable cases. The local case count previously included probable cases identified by antigen testing but not those from antibody testing or other sources.”

“Since we report confirmed cases on our dashboard, we have removed 3,484 previously reported probable cases from the statewide and Bexar County totals,” Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the health agency, told the Austin American-Statesman.

“The State of Texas today had to remove 3,484 cases from its Covid-19 positive case count, because the San Antonio Health Department was reporting ‘probable’ cases for people never actually tested, as ‘confirmed’ positive cases,” KDFW-TV news anchor Steve Eagar tweeted on Wednesday. “What other departments make this same mistake?”

According to KSAT-TV, the Texas Department of State Health Services can declare a person to be COVID-19-positive without getting a polymerase chain reaction diagnostic test as long as the individual meets two of three of the following criteria:

  • A positive quick-result antigen test
  • Experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
  • Close contact with a confirmed positive COVID-19 case

Technically, a person could go to a clinic, tell the physician that they are experiencing coronavirus symptoms and that they know a co-worker or relative has coronavirus, and the person could be declared to be coronavirus positive without actually being tested.

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded COVID-19 symptoms:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

The PCR test is a molecular diagnostic testing technique that inserts a 6-inch-long swab into the nasal cavity to detect the genetic material from the virus. Results take one day to a week.

Antigen tests are quick-response tests that “usually provide results diagnosing an active coronavirus infection faster than molecular tests, but antigen tests have a higher chance of missing an active infection,” according to the Food and Drug Administration. Antigen tests, which are the less expensive test, detect proteins of the novel coronavirus in samples. Results usually take less than an hour.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg defended the decision to include probable cases as confirmed cases.

“From a science perspective and medical perspective, it doesn’t make any sense to not count these test results, as they are just as accurate in determining positive cases,” Nirenberg said Friday. “This gives us a better sense of where the infections are so we can control it.”

Earlier this week, the Florida Department of Health was exposed for having extremely high coronavirus positivity rates. Hospitals and clinics were reporting 100% or near 100% COVID-19 positivity rates, despite a report showing that they had a fraction of that.

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