Forty-one Cal Poly students were mistakenly told they had COVID-19 due to a technical error at a third-party lab, university administration announced Wednesday evening.

Then 13 of those students might have accidentally been exposed again while in isolation for their false positives.

In an email to the San Luis Obispo campus community Wednesday, President Jeffrey Armstrong, Vice President for Student Affairs Keith Humphrey and Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, Health and Wellbeing Tina Hadaway-Mellis said administration last week noted a “concerning, rapid increase we were seeing in the rate of positive COVID-19 tests among our students.”

According to the email, Avellino Labs, which conducts Cal Poly’s asymptomatic COVID-19 tests, reported “a significantly higher number of positive tests from samples collected on one particular day, compared to the positivity trend rates we had been seeing for campus.”

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Administration noted the “unexpected spike” and asked Avellino Labs to process those tests again to reconfirm the results.


On Tuesday, Avellino information Cal Poly that there was a “technician error in Avellino’s lab processing,” and 41 tests has mistakenly been reported as positive.

Cal Poly notified the students of the error and went about confirming that they were free of COVID-19 and able to resume their normal activities.

Twenty-eight of those students were cleared, but 13 were determined to have potentially been exposed to students in isolation who had previously tested positive for COVID-19, according to the email.

When on-campus students are notified they may have coronavirus, they are moved out of their current living area and placed in isolation in on- or off-campus facilities where they are provided with support services, according to Cal Poly’s coronavirus response website.

For students living off campus, they are asked by the university to isolate at home for at least 10 days.

The isolation order is enforced by the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department, in conjunction with the university.


As of Wednesday, 75 on-campus students are currently in isolation, while 167 are in self-quarantine. An additional 494 on campus-students are currently in “quarantine in place” — which is when an entire floor or section of University Housing is ordered to quarantine for 14 days as a precaution.

According to the email, the 13 who may once again have been exposed have been moved to individual isolation quarters and are receiving testing to determine their current health status, according to administration.

Cal Poly had previously been planning to stop using Avellino Labs and instead implement its own in-house saliva testing procedure for all students, the email reads.

That change is expected to happen with the next two weeks, according to the email.