Compromised COVID test ruins woman’s Hawaiian vacation

A Hayward woman, who flew to Hawaii, said her vacation was ruined after she did not receive her COVID-19 test results to avoid quarantine. Walgreens Pharmacy told her that her test sample had been compromised by a homeless man.

Delilah Hamilton is not happy that Walgreens did not notify her that a homeless man had tampered with the sample drop-off box. She found out only after she landed in Hawaii and after she called the pharmacy.

With bags still packed and flight tags untouched, Hamilton returned to her home in the Bay Area on Tuesday after a dream Hawaiian vacation with her friend turned into a nightmare.

“I’m angry,” said Hamilton. “I’m mad. I’m confused for one because this didn't have to happen.”

Hamilton booked a trip to Kauai, the island with the least number of COVID cases with a stopover in Honolulu.

As mandated by Hawaii, for all travelers within 72 hours of her flight, Hamilton took a COVID test to avoid quarantine.

She chose a trusted testing site listed on Hawaii’s web site, a Walgreens in Hayward.

“You do it through the drive-thru at Walgreens,” said Hamilton. “They give you the swab. you swab it. They tell you pull up. There’s a box you have to put your swab in.”

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Results are emailed within 72 hours. As her plane touched down in Honolulu on Monday, there were no results. The lab had no record of her specimen so she called Walgreens.

“The pharmacist said, oh ma’am, I’m sorry,” said Hamilton. “A homeless man broke into our box and all of the swabs in the box, they were damaged or in some way we don't know if they were stolen but some of the swabs were missing.”

Hamilton was dumbfounded.

“I’m just standing there hysterically crying,” said Hamilton.

She didn’t want to quarantine for 14-days, so Southwest helped book a flight back to Oakland.

A pharmacy staff member at the Hayward location confirmed a homeless man tampered with 14 tests on Friday and said a customer had watched the man open the box.

In an email, Walgreens Corporate said the company is looking into the matter. Later on Wednesday they wrote, "We have reached out to everyone who was impacted and offered to retest them." They apologized for the inconvenience calling it an "isolated incident." 

“Why didn't anyone contact me?” said Hamilton. “If this happened on Friday, why didn’t someone make a phone call to the people who had the swabs in that box.”

Hamilton said Walgreens has offered her compensation but what she really wants is answers.

“What about those people who are actually sick waiting for those results,” said Hamilton. “This is a serious disease and I believe it wasn't taken seriously.”