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Deceased mom’s delayed COVID-19 test results left family in uncertainty

By Liz Moomey

liz.moomey@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Mary Boucher was admitted to Novant Health Rowan Medical Center on March 19.

The 65-year-old was diagnosed with pneumonia, and she fit the protocol to be tested for COVID-19. But she died early in the morning on March 21 without knowing her results.

Unsure of her mother’s COVID-19 test results, Susan Boucher began contacting the Critical Care Unit. She had concerns her 22-year-old son, who had been lived with her mother, had been exposed. She was also concerned about herself and others with whom she’d been in contact.

Susan tried calling the hospital and was told to call the Rowan County Health Department. But the health department didn’t have the results, either.

It wasn’t until one week after Mary Boucher was admitted that her daughter learned the results were negative. 

Rowan County Public Health Director Nina Oliver said last week that test results are coming back in an average of seven to 10 days. That’s compared to three to five days just a few weeks ago when COVID-19 testing was harder to come by than it is now.

Oliver says an increase in sample collection for tests has increased the wait times and added that she’s not aware of a situation in which someone tested positive for COVID-19 and died prior to learning their results. 

She amount of tests available is adequate and that she also is not aware of anyone not being able to be tested lately due to low availability.

But when someone tests positive, the health department’s investigation entails them reaching out to the positive person to trace everyone they interacted with using the set of symptoms as their starting point. The health department also gets a list of people with which the person had “direct, prolonged contact,” which includes not following social distance guidelines of less than six feet apart for more than 10 minutes. The health department begins notifying those contacts. In certain cases, the positive person can notify people they have been in close contact with, such as members of their household.

Susan said the loss of her mother was “really heartbreaking” and that she was the most important person in her life.

When her mother was in the hospital, talk was all about the coronavirus, she said. Susan said she had to ask specifically whether her mother was tested for COVID-19. The doctor told her that he was 95% sure she did not but tested her anyway.

Boucher felt relieved, and she didn’t realize how critically ill her mother was.

On March 19, her mother was able to have two people with her. After that day, they could only see Mary through a window. On March 21, when Boucher said goodbye to her mother, she and her family members were in full protective gear.

“You want to kiss her, but you have this mask on,” she said. “You want to hug her but you have this suit on.”

Susan said with all of that she felt like they were not there for her mother.

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