GREENSBORO, N.C. — Convenience is crucial, especially in the era of social distancing amid a global pandemic. However, it turns out rapid at-home kits could be 'testing' the accuracy of COVID metrics and skewing the true level of spread.
We are only a couple days into the new year and seeing red flags in COVID metrics, both locally and nationwide. From case counts to positivity rates, key trends are up -- as is testing, and there is an increasing desire to take those tests from the convenience of home.
That's why this claim is circulating -- at-home tests aren't counted in COVID data and therefore are skewing the true level of spread. Is that true?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS)
- Chris Ohl, MD - infectious diseases, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist
It's true -- at-home tests are not automatically counted in the official metrics, so they will deflate the official case counts and positivity rates, unless the users take extra steps to report positive results.
WHAT WE FOUND
Infectious diseases physician Chris Ohl, MD, explained, "I'm afraid it's true. If you're doing at-home testing and relying on at-home testing to determine whether you have COVID, then yes, those won't get counted, unless you let the health department know."
Ever since Omicron and people's increased desire to test before holiday gatherings, pharmacies have been selling out of at-home COVID tests. The Biden Administration announced it is distributing half-a-billion at-home rapid tests starting in early January, and depending on the brands, reporting results likely will require extra effort.
"If you do have a positive test, a very small number of the kits -- through your smart phone -- will allow you to record it, but most of the time, you'll just have to contact your county health department on your own."
The NCDHHS confirmed at-home COVID tests done without provider prescriptions are not included in counts on the COVID data dashboard, which updates daily around noon.
The health department's new testing memo explains if a healthcare provider did not prescribe the at-home test, and symptoms are mild, you should isolate and notify close contacts, but it is not required to contact the health care provider or health department about results.
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