NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - The Tennessee Department of Health has confirmed to News4 Investigates that a “coding error” resulted in an estimated 300 people being incorrectly told they were being traced as positive COVID-19 cases instead of being tracked as people who had only come in contact with the sick.

The acknowledgement comes after News4 Investigates uncovered how Brock Ballou, a Mount Juliet father, was repeatedly told by contact tracers that he was positive for COVID-19, even though he had never even taken a test.

“Everyone makes mistakes, but this is a big error when it comes to a pandemic like this and told that they are positive I know I’m not the only one. And that’s irritating,” Ballou said.

The Department of Health told News4 Investigates, “The error was discovered and corrected within 24 hours.”

A spokeswoman for the department explained that a coding error led to an estimated 300 people being told they were being monitored as positive COVID-19 cases when they should have been told they were being monitored as coming in contact with a sick person.

“People should have been notified they were a contact but were being called as if they were a case. No one was given incorrect test results,” said Shelley Walker, spokeswoman for the Department of Health.

But Ballou said he was told wrong information.

“To me it’s upsetting to the fact that I don’t know how it works – what’s the incentive of having so many numbers? That’s what I feel is going on. And that’s what I want to know why,” Ballou said.

The state reports that the number of positive cases they release to the public each date comes from labs, not from the data shared with contact tracers.

It’s also unclear how many of the 300 were, or were not, positive at the time contact tracers reached out to them.

Because of how easily the virus spreads, by the time contact tracers spoke to the 300, many of them may have, in fact, tested positive.

While Ballou has never been tested, it is unclear how many of the 300 were also asymptomatic and therefore never got tested.

News4 Investigates has asked if the state intends on reaching out to each of the 300 to inform them of the error. Ballou said he has not been contacted.

“At this point I honestly don’t know what to think,” Ballou said.

News4 Investigates will be filing open records request to try and determine how many of the 300 were told they were positive cases when, at the time of contact, they had not been tested or told tracers that they were negative.


Chief Investigative Reporter

Jeremy Finley is the chief investigator for News4 Investigates. His reporting has resulted in criminal convictions, legislative hearings before the U.S. Congress, and the payout of more than a million dollars to scam victims.

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