Family puzzled by 26-year-old’s death after Covid-19 test is negative

YAMHILL COUNTY, Ore. — “Thursday morning he called and said mom, I feel like I’m dying,” said Michael Laheyne, Matthew Irvin’s step dad.

Matthew Irvin left behind two sons and a baby.

The 26-year-old Yamhill County man is the youngest person to die from Covid-19 in Oregon, according to Oregon Health Authority data last week.

“We requested an autopsy at that time, but we were denied. The medical examiner said that there was no reason because he was related to Covid, he was pretty sure,” said Laheyne.

But just two days later, Irvin’s step dad Michael Laheyne says Irvin’s coronavirus test came back negative.

He says no one Irvin was around tested positive either, leaving his family desperate for answers.

“It’s an imperfect tool. It’s just not as good a tool as we would like,” said Dr. Shames, Jackson Co. health officer.

Dr. Shames says he can’t comment on this specifics of Irvin’s case, but says false negative tests do happen; a big factor is timing.

“You could have a test early and it might be negative. And you can get the test later and it might be positive,” he said.

Dr. Shames says you could also be very sick from the virus, however, get tested too late.

He says the disease can leave people with life-threatening ailments like blood clots and respiratory issues even when the virus is no longer in their system.

“Even though you might be very, very ill you probably don’t have enough virus in your body to affect others. That is to say you can be very ill with Covid-related disease and you could have a negative test,” said Dr. Shames.

Aside from timing, Dr. Shames says the tests themselves are flawed.

He says the most accurate test right now is called a ‘PCR’ test, but it only detects the disease 70 percent of the time.

“Statistically, someone could have more than one test and get a false negative reading twice,” said Dr. Shames.

Although puzzling, Dr. Shames says situations like Irvin’s death can happen.

“We just want to know exactly what happened to him. Twenty six years old, healthy as an ox,” said Laheyne.

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