Houston man tests positive, then negative, then positive for COVID-19

One Houston man tested positive, then negative, then positive again for COVID-19, forcing him to miss nearly a month of work.

Virus researchers say the average person can learn from this man’s story to prevent the same thing from happening to you.

On Monday, Ernesto Felan returned to work as a warehouse supervisor but has a lot of lingering questions after a series of positive and negative COVID-19 tests forced him to miss four weeks of work.

“I don’t understand how all three of our tests would be different,” said Felan. “Maybe there’s a reason, but I don’t understand it.”

It started back in late June when Felan says his wife caught COVID-19, so he and his daughter went in for a test too on June 29. They all came back positive.

He says his symptoms were mild.

“Just two days I couldn’t smell anything, and then the third day I could start smelling very little,” said Felan. “Within a week it was already back, so it wasn’t too bad.”

They waited just over two weeks, went in for testing again on July 16, and this time he tested negative while his wife and daughter still tested positive. Because they were positive, he wasn’t allowed to return to work.

The next week on July 21 they tested again. This time his wife and daughter were negative and he was positive. He continued to quarantine until the week of July 27.

“I got my test results today that I’m negative again, so in the past month I’ve been positive, negative, positive, negative, and finally able to come back to work,” said Felan.

Researchers at Baylor College of medicine say some of his test results may not have been accurate due to the varying kinds of tests he was taking.

“The first test was nasal…the second one I did--it was a mouth swab,” said Felan. “The third one was saliva.”

“There’s one true method that seems to be the most sensitive in terms of the sampling, and that’s the nasopharyngeal swab—it goes way back in your head,” said Joseph F. Petrosino, Ph.D. at Baylor College of Medicine. “Anything else…you should maybe question.”

Petrosino says the City of Houston and Harris County test sites are using the most reliable testing method, but clinics that offer same-day results are more likely to have inaccurate results.

Also, Petrosino says new CDC guidelines indicate it is safe to return to work without a follow up COVID-19 test once you become asymptomatic.