A state lawmaker in New Jersey expressed concern that questionable Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) test results were used as a basis for the state’s mask mandate. Republican State Sen. Michael Doherty alleged a “lack of government transparency” with regard to COVID-19 testing procedures. He also slammed Gov. Phil Murphy for the latter’s refusal to “answer legitimate questions” about COVID-19 testing and the state’s Aug. 6 mask mandate.

In a statement, Doherty pointed out Murphy’s continued silence “even as concerns linger that overly sensitive PCR tests are driving bad policy decisions, including the re-masking of K-12 school students.” The GOP lawmaker wanted to find out if the state government allowed polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests with a high cycle threshold (CT) to be counted. Based on evidence, many people who test positive for COVID-19 at higher CT levels were “asymptomatic, no longer sick, or past the point of being contagious.”

“People deserve to know if Gov. Murphy is basing his latest round of executive orders on overly sensitive tests that produce and extremely high rate of false positives,” Doherty said. The Aug. 6 mask mandate put in place by the governor was among the executive orders Doherty questioned.

A statement from Murphy’s office confirmed that “all students, educators, staff and visitors” must mask up in indoor settings for the start of the school year. The executive order – which applied to “all indoor premises of all public, private and parochial pre-school, elementary and secondary school buildings” – came into effect on Aug. 9.

Doherty said in the statement: “Gov. Murphy still won’t respond to serious concerns about [COVID-19] testing procedures even as he uses the potentially flawed results to justify major policy decisions on masks and vaccines that limit our freedoms. If he has nothing to hide, why won’t he answer the most basic questions about PCR testing that we’ve been asking since last year?”

Back in December 2020, Doherty and his GOP colleague Sen. Joe Pennacchio sent letters to the New Jersey Department of Health asking about the state’s COVID-19 testing procedures. However, the state senators had not received any response.

Doherty’s inquiry highlights the inaccuracy of PCR tests

The state lawmaker’s probe of New Jersey’s PCR testing procedures came as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) withdrew its support for the testing method. The public health agency announced the withdrawal for the RT-PCR Diagnostic Panel, which was first introduced in February 2020, on July 21.

The announcement said CDC will withdraw the emergency use authorization request for the RT-PCR panel sent to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after Dec. 31, 2021. “CDC is providing this advance notice for clinical laboratories to have adequate time to select and implement one of the many FDA-authorized alternatives,” the announcement added.

But even before the CDC’s withdrawal of the PCR test, it had been criticized for some time due to its inaccuracy. In November 2020, a Portuguese court ruled that PCR rests are unreliable and that quarantine orders based on them are unlawful. Portuguese Court of Appeal judges Margarida Ramos de Almeida and Ana Parames said in their Nov. 11 decision that the PCR test is not a reliable method to find out if someone caught SARS-CoV-2. They also noted that one positive test alone is not enough to effectively determine if someone did indeed contract the pathogen.

Ramos de Almeida and Parames used a September 2020 paper by French researchers as a basis for their ruling. The said study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases found that the accuracy of PCR tests with a CT of 35 or higher dropped to three percent. Thus, they concluded that any PCR test using with a CT of 25 and above is totally unreliable.

Around the time of the French study’s publication, Canadian newspaper Westphalian Times (WT) claimed that up to 90 percent of COVID-19 cases in Canada could be false positives. The newspaper attributed this to overly sensitive standards used in PCR tests. WT reached out to a number of provincial health authorities and public health laboratories in Canada to find out the CT values used in each province.

During WT’s two-week investigation, it reached out to a number of provinces to find out the sensitivity level of their PCR tests. Only two provinces, Quebec and Manitoba, willingly provided their positive cut-off CT values. However, health authorities in Saskatchewan provided a July 2020 study published in the Journal of Clinical Virology that contained the positive cut-off CT values for other provinces.

WT found that the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia had the lowest positive CT cutoff values ranging from 33 to 35. On the other hand, Ontario and Quebec had the highest positive CT cutoff values – reaching as high as 45.

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