Edmonton woman takes wrong COVID test, detained for two nights following international flight

An Edmonton woman who took the wrong COVID test was detained for two nights after landing from an international flight at the Calgary International Airport last Thursday night. As Jeannette Rocher reports, Nicole Mathis took the antigen test instead of the required PCR COVID test and now wants to warn other travellers to avoid making the same mistake.

According to Chris Mathis, his wife Nicole had taken a COVID-19 antigen test while in Dallas on business earlier this week. He says she tested negative, and was allowed to board her American Airlines flight to Calgary on Thursday.

She had gone to a doctor there (in Dallas) and told them she needed a COVID test to return home before boarding her flight in a few days. The doctor asked her which COVID test she needed, but she didn’t know there was more than one, says Mathis. She just told him she needed the kind to board her flight home.

Mathis says the doctor gave Nicole the antigen test.

But according to the Government of Canada website, what she actually needed was a COVID-19 molecular test, such as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) test‚

The difference? According to the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S., molecular tests, such as RT-PCR tests detect the virus’s genetic material, and antigen tests detect specific proteins from the virus.

According to the Government of Canada, “antigen tests will not be accepted for travellers returning to Canada.

Bridge City News spoke with Mathis Saturday morning and he told us Nicole had been released from quarantine and was on her way home to Edmonton.

He explained that when she landed in Calgary Thursday night she was told she had the wrong test and would have to quarantine. Public health officials administered the proper PCR COVID test on Nicole at the airport, and she was escorted to an undisclosed quarantine location until receiving a negative test result from the PCR test.

She actually got her negative test result back last night (Jan 29) says Mathis, but they told her she wasn’t allowed to leave until a public health nurse came and checked her out this morning.

He says he received a call from his wife in distress Thursday night, saying she wasn’t allowed to leave the airport and that members of Public Health Agency Canada and Calgary Police Service were there to escort her to a quarantine location.

She was told if she resisted she would be arrested, says Mathis.

He asked his wife to pass the phone to the authorities to ask what would happen if she just left, they reiterated what she had said to me, (that she would be arrested). He says they would not disclose to him the location of her quarantine and would not share their names with him.

A posting on Mathis‚ facebook page from that evening described the incident. She was not allowed to get her vehicle from the airport, she was immediately put in a white van surrounded by police escorts and taken to an unknown facility that is under full surveillance and has security at every entrance and exit, he wrote.

Mathis told Bridge City News Saturday, that Nicole had a tracker on her cell phone and that he was able to track where authorities were escorting her to. He says they brought her to the Westin Hotel in Calgary. When he called the hotel they denied that they were a quarantine location.

Bridge City News contacted Calgary Police Service to find out what their involvement is with travellers arriving on international flights and if officers are being told to arrest people or just fine them. We were told to call back on Monday. However, Calgary Police sent out a tweet releasing a statement in relation to the incident at Calgary International Airport involving Public Health Agency Canada. Their statement reads: Calgary Police Service involvement in this matter was limited to walking with PHAC as they escorted the traveller to a transport vehicle outside the airport to be taken to a designated hotel.

Bridge City News will continue to report on this developing story as information is made available.

Photo: Chris Mathis Facebook

Jeannette Rocher

Born in Puerto Rico, raised in Minnesota and Manitoba, Jeannette has had the opportunity to live in a variety of places including New York, Arizona, and Nevada. After completing college and a paid internship with CBC Winnipeg, Jeannette embarked on her journalism career by moving overseas to take a job on the island of Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands. While overseas she covered stories in Fiji, Guam and Japan including the 2011 tsunami that hit Japan and its surrounding islands. She covered a mass shooting, an Earth quake, murder cases and other substantial court cases. In 2013 she moved to Alberta where she covered the devastating floods of High River and Medicine Hat for CTV News. She then went on to produce and host Go! Southern Alberta for Shaw TV. She now calls Miracle Channel home. In addition to reporting in the field, you can catch her anchoring daily weather reports, as well as longer interview segments on BCN, and the week-in-review show on BCN Weekends. 

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