Home COVID-19 tests could impact local case counts

Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 9:41 PM CST
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TEMPLE, Texas (KWTX) - The Bell County Public Health District says their COVID-19 case counts are likely lower than the true number of cases in the community as more people perform COVID tests at home.

“What we have, is inaccurate reporting, an underestimation probably a pretty significant underestimation of the number of cases in our county,” Dr. Janice Smith explained Tuesday.

While the at home tests are currently hard to come by, more are set to be distributed around the country later this month.

“If you look at our case numbers today its probably at least 25% higher than what you see,” Smith said, referring to rapid and at home tests. “The home tests can be very helpful but they are not considered an official test.”

Dr. Janice Smith says results from home tests depend on the kit and whether or not a good sample was taken.

“A lot of people are very hesitant to put the swab in their nose and don’t swab very well,” she explained.

Because of that she says the county won’t consider a home positive test as a confirmed case, instead, they’re encouraging people to follow up with another test to be sure.

“If you do a home test and its positive what we strongly recommend is that you get a PCR confirmation test.”

Those PCR tests are then reported to the county as an official case.

In a statement given to KWTX, however, the Department of State Health Services says it feels enough PCR tests are still being done to give a clear picture of COVID transmission in the state.

“Only labs and health care providers are required to report test results to DSHS. We are seeing huge numbers of people getting molecular and antigen tests from entities that report to the state so we have a good picture of the current situation,” Lara Anton, Senior Press Officer for Texas Department of State Health Services said.

But with the home tests going unreported, Smith says its still more important than ever for people to do their own contact tracing.

“Its impossible for us to do the contact tracing so we are really relying on the individuals to take that responsibility,” she explained.

Its more likely, according to Dr. Smith, to test negative at home and then positive from a PCR later, so while they are harder to find, she says to get the PCR test whenever possible.

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