New Jersey Mask Mandate Driven by Questionable COVID-19 Testing Results, Senator Says

By Ella Kietlinska
Ella Kietlinska
Ella Kietlinska
Reporter
Ella Kietlinska is a New York-based reporter for The Epoch Times.
August 11, 2021 Updated: August 11, 2021

A New Jersey Senator has voiced concerns over a recent mask mandate order in his state that may have been driven by questionable COVID-19 testing results.

Republican New Jersey Senator Michael Doherty claimed in a statement on Monday that there was a lack of government transparency regarding testing procedures which raises questions about the mask mandate order enacted on Friday by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.

Doherty said the governor has refused to “answer legitimate questions about COVID-19 testing even as concerns linger that overly sensitive PCR tests are driving bad policy decisions, including the re-masking of K-12 school students.”

Doherty wanted to find out if the New Jersey government allowed PCR testing for COVID-19 with a high cycle threshold which could cause many individuals who test positive to be “asymptomatic, no longer sick, or past the point of being contagious,” the statement said.

In December, Doherty and state Senator Joe Pennacchio (R) sent letters to the New Jersey Department of Health requesting details on New Jersey’s testing procedures, including cycle count on COVID-19 test results, which would help to evaluate the risk of spreading the disease by a person tested positive, according to the statement.

Both senators have not received a response to their letters, the statement said.

People deserve to know if a mask mandate and other policies related to the pandemic are based “on overly sensitive tests that produce an extremely high rate of false positives,” Doherty said.

The Epoch Times reached out to the office of Gov. Phil Murphy and the New Jersey Department of Health for comments.

How PCR Test Works

Nancy Pu, a Senior Scientist works in the lab that is focused on fighting COVID-19 at Sorrento Therapeutics in San Diego, California on May 22, 2020. - PCR can make millions of exact copies of a piece of DNA, allowing scientists to extract tiny samples. Last Friday researchers announced that the antibody,ST1-1499, it had been developing proved to be effective in blocking the COVID-19 virus in laboratory experiments. Sorrento Therapeutics is a biopharmaceutical company that researches human therapeutic antibodies for the treatment of cancer, inflammation, metabolic, and infectious diseases. (Photo by ARIANA DREHSLER / AFP) (Photo by ARIANA DREHSLER/AFP via Getty Images)
A senior scientist working in a lab that is focused on fighting COVID-19 at Sorrento Therapeutics in San Diego, California on May 22, 2020. (Ariana Drehsler/ AFP via Getty Images)

The cycle threshold value of the PCR test is determined by the number of cycles it takes for the test machine to detect a fragment of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19. The number of cycles informs an infected person of how much virus is in their system.

The higher the threshold value, the less the viral load, indicating that the person is less likely to be infectious. In comparison, a person with a lower cycle threshold value will have a higher viral load or is more infectious.

The CDC’s PCR test uses a cutoff threshold value of 40 cycles, a number experts say is too high and likely to detect dead-virus fragments only.

Many people are unaware that they may request the cycle threshold value of their test result, as the standard practice of reporting only states negative or positive. Except in Florida, cycle threshold reporting is not part of the diagnosis unless requested by the patient.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the cycle threshold value “should not be used to determine a patient’s viral load, how infectious a person may be, or when a person can be released from isolation or quarantine” in its updated frequently asked questions about the CCP virus for labs in November 2020, months after concerns were raised by the scientific community that there was an over-reliance on and a misuse of the PCR test as a diagnostic tool.

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued guidance on Jan. 20, 2021, informing lab experts and health care practitioners that they should also consider the patient’s history and epidemiological risk factors alongside the PCR test in diagnosing the CCP virus, saying that “most PCR assays are indicated as an aid for diagnosis.”

A study published by the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal found that with the increase in the cycle threshold value, the percent of viruses that can be cultured decreases.

The authors said that at a cycle threshold of 25, “up to 70 percent of patients remain positive in culture and that at [cycle threshold] 30, this value drops to 20 percent.”

However, at a cycle threshold of 35, the value cutoff used to report a positive result for PCR, “<3 [percent] of cultures are positive.”

In July, the CDC said that it would no longer recommend its first-generation PCR diagnosis test to detect the CCP virus, saying that it will withdraw the test’s emergency use authorization (EUA) and instead encourage labs to use newer FDA-authorized multiplex assay that can detect and differentiate both the CCP virus and the flu.

Meiling Lee contributed to this report.

Ella Kietlinska
Ella Kietlinska
Reporter
Ella Kietlinska is a New York-based reporter for The Epoch Times.