PUPUKEA, Hawaii (KHON2) — An investigation is underway after hundreds of vials filled with COVID test samples were delivered to a North Shore home over the weekend.
Around 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Pupukea resident Meagan Melum said she heard another package get thrown over her gate.
“I went out and grabbed it, and saw the FedEx driver go by, so I knew it was FedEx,” the mom of three said.
She noticed the package didn’t have her name or address on the shipping label but she didn’t think much of it because she had received so many Christmas packages the past few weeks. Only a printed barcode sticker was on the brown FedEx box, and her address was written on it so the delivery driver could see.
Melum brought the package inside her home where her six, seven, and eight-year-old kids were too.
“I got scissors and opened it up, and in the [brown] box was a FedEx soft package with a ton of vials of COVID testing samples, with biohazard bags,” she said.
She said she freaked out and called her husband who was upstairs. He ran down and grabbed their three young kids and took them to their neighbor’s house. Melum put the box outside while her husband called FedEx.
“What was weird was the brown package from the outside looked completely normal, but when I opened it, the inside package I didn’t have to tear it open or anything it was completely destroyed and ripped open,” she explained of the soft mailing envelope package inside the box.
She said they were on the phone with FedEx for over an hour, and no one could help.
They called Honolulu Police who came and looked at the package and stayed with Melum for a few hours but ultimately wouldn’t take possession of the biohazard package.
“We tried calling the Fire Department, the health department, and no one wants custody of this box that has testing results in it for hundreds of people,” Melum said.
Melum reached out to KHON2 Saturday evening, and we started looking into both tracking numbers.
The damaged mailing envelope package with the testing vials inside was from Massachusetts and was intended to be sent to Elite Labs in Chicago.
Her package, which was supposed to be apparel she ordered online had never arrived, but the FedEx tracking number read ‘delivered’ at the same time the box with COVID testing vials showed up.
KHON2 called Dr. Scott Miscovich of Premier Medical Group on Sunday morning, his company handles their own COVID-19 tests on a regular basis, KHON2 sent photos of the vials to ensure they were COVID-19 testing samples. He confirmed they were and was stunned they ended up at a residential home.
“This is so incredible to me that they ended up in the North Shore of Oahu intended for Chicago,” he said. “This needs to be investigated, and it is a risk. There are so many things that are wrong with this. It clearly looks like this was destroyed in the shipping process, and it needs to be investigated. This is a biohazard that got sent into a private home, and there’s no excuse.”
He said each vial has a barcode which has the addresses, phone numbers, and possibly social security numbers attached.
“There has to be, by law, appropriate contact information to get in touch with these people, if they’re positive,” he explained.
We both spoke to Elite Labs in Chicago on Sunday afternoon to let them know the tests they were waiting on, were actually thousands of miles away in Hawaii.
“There were probably 300 or so lab vials in there and those people were expecting COVID results, so I wanted him to immediately know that those people needed to be retested and to alert him to this major error,” Dr. Miscovich said.
Elite Labs told KHON2 that the tests were from Boston, and the people who took the tests needed COVID results to travel.
Elite Labs said they tried contacting as many people as possible to get re-tested and explained that a box with COVID-19 testing samples would have had a biological substance label on it. The brown FedEx box that Melum received did not have a biohazard or biological substance warning on it.
Melum said she was worried about the safety of her kids and family and said opening a biohazard box inside her home was scary, especially when one of her kids has asthma. They’ve been very concerned about their health during the COVID pandemic.
“It’s super upsetting,” Melum said. “I got something that definitely should not be in a household whatsoever, so yeah I’m really upset with FedEx.”
FedEx picked up the package Monday afternoon and said in a statement:
“This incident is completely unacceptable and contrary to our commitment to treat our customers’ packages each day with the utmost care. We have retrieved the shipment in question and are working directly with the customers involved to rectify this situation. In addition, we immediately launched an investigation into what happened and will take appropriate steps to address this matter.”
Health officials said opening the box inside her home did not contaminate her house or put her kids at risk.
Melum said she is thankful the package is gone and for the help from KHON2 and Dr. Miscovich.