The wildfire-like spread of the Omicron variant may have inspired you, like many Californians, to snap up a few rapid coronavirus test kits if you could find them, that is.
And when you started worrying that youd caught the coronavirus, you may have put one of those kits to use. You carefully swabbed the insides of both nostrils, mixed your sample with a few drops of reagent, placed it on a test strip and waited 15 minutes to see your results.
But after doing all that and gasping with either relief or dismay you may have overlooked the kits last instruction: to report your results.
Some test kits advise you to call your healthcare provider. Others want you to use the test makers app.
Get our free Coronavirus Today newsletter
Sign up for the latest news, best stories and what they mean for you, plus answers to your questions.
Enter email address
Sign Me Up
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.
Home testing leads to marked underestimates of case numbers, Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of UC San Franciscos Department of Medicine, said in an email. Clearly many hundreds of thousands of people are now diagnosing themselves with positive home tests (generally plus symptoms) and these are not reported.
Even if you do try to report your results, the information isnt likely to move the needle on the publics understanding of the virus. Thats because theyre not included in the data health officials use to produce their reports and policies.
So the more people test themselves at home, the less the official numbers about new infections and positivity rates (that is, the percentage of tests that detect the virus) will provide an accurate picture of the publics health.
Thats not necessarily a bad thing its just a cautionary note about the data we rely on as we chart a path through the pandemic.
Experts say theres always been a disconnect between the reported coronavirus case counts and the truth. Because many people who catch the virus experience few or no symptoms, many infections go unreported.
Similarly, test positivity rates tend to be inflated because the people most likely to show up at a testing center are the ones with COVID-19-like symptoms. Large organizations that require all their members to be tested regularly invariably have lower positivity rates than sites that test only people who think they might be sick.
Testing more people more often, as a number of other developed countries do, could help identify outbreaks and limit their spread. But for a variety of reasons, a growing reliance on at-home rapid tests kits may not help public health officials in their battle to track and understand the pandemic.
There are a number of situations that might prompt people to test themselves. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests taking a self-test if you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed or potentially exposed to an individual with COVID-19. (The symptoms to look out for, the CDC says, include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue and sore throat.)
Another good self-test time, the agency advises, is before gathering with people who are at greater risk of being infected, such as those who are unvaccinated, elderly or have weakened immune systems. Or maybe you want to attend an event that requires proof of a negative test.
What do you do after you take the test? If it comes back positive, health officials say you should isolate at home, alert the people with whom youve been in close contact, and tell your healthcare provider. The L.A. County Department of Public Health also has a hotline for you to call (833) 540-0473 if you have questions, need referrals or need help in notifying your close contacts.
A department spokeswoman said that we will be documenting and interviewing those that do call us with positive results. But the department does not want to be contacted about negative test results.
Nor are health officials generally including the home test results in the confirmed case counts. One reason is that the low-cost rapid tests are antigen tests, while clinics and county test centers use polymerase chain reaction tests, which are better at detecting infections in their early stages. Then theres the question of whether people taking tests at home are using them correctly or reporting the results accurately.
Verification of results is a huge issue for rapid at-home tests, said Gigi Kwik Gronvall, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Thats why if you need a coronavirus test result to board a plane, she said, you either need to have a PCR test that was done in a lab or you could go to a site that could give you [an antigen] test but its verified somebodys doing it for you and they see its done correctly.
After some initial mix-ups, states are now reporting any antigen test results they collect separately from PCR results, Gronvall said.
Dr. Sara H. Cody, Santa Clara Countys health officer and public health director, agreed with Wachter that the new infections reported by health officials each day are an undercount. But that may not be as big a drawback as it would have been at the start of the pandemic.
Back then, Cody said, health officials followed every case so carefully because it really, really mattered in our understanding of the pandemic and informing our policy choices. But now, she said, were in a place in the pandemic thats quite different.
Even with limited testing, officials know that case counts will increase rapidly because of the Omicron variant. Whats most important to us now, she said, is that we measure our hospital resources to make sure people who need acute care can get it. And with vaccination and booster rates high in her county, Cody added, its hard to tell at this point how many of the newly infected there will eventually need a hospital bed.
Wachter, Cody and other health experts said policymakers focus is shifting away from the reported case counts to other measures, such as hospitalizations and positivity rates. Granted, positivity rates are thrown off by the exclusion of at-home test results. But Cody said its still meaningful to have an apples-to-apples comparison of positive test rates over time.
Santa Clara County has been doing around 20,000 tests a day, and its positivity rate was around 1.5% in early December, Cody said. As of Tuesday, she said, it was nearly 10.5%.
Despite the data issues they create, at-home antigen tests are still an important complement to PCR tests, Cody said. They alert people who need to isolate and reduce the chances that they are going to go on and infect others, which is important broadly to public health.
Besides, the L.A. County health department says, coronavirus case counts arent as meaningful as the trends they reveal.
As is true with many reportable diseases, the reported numbers have never captured all cases, a department spokeswoman said. But they have provided trendlines for us to better understand what is happening and to contribute to modeling what is likely to be the most accurate numbers.
See the original post here:
If you give yourself a COVID test, who tracks the results? - Los Angeles Times
- Is a universal coronavirus vaccine on the horizon? - National Geographic - January 19th, 2022
- Boris Johnson says Englands virus rules will ease next week. - The New York Times - January 19th, 2022
- Coronavirus Roundup: One Year of the Biden COVID-19 Response - GovExec.com - January 19th, 2022
- Thousands in Hong Kong volunteer to adopt hamsters amid COVID-19 fears - Reuters - January 19th, 2022
- Coronavirus spreading like never before in Americas, health agency says - Reuters Canada - January 19th, 2022
- Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers for Wednesday, January 19 - WNEP Scranton/Wilkes-Barre - January 19th, 2022
- How does COVID-19 misinformation compare with other health topics? - Medical News Today - January 19th, 2022
- 538 more coronavirus cases have been reported across Maine - Bangor Daily News - January 19th, 2022
- Is headache a symptom of the omicron COVID variant? - FOX31 Denver - January 19th, 2022
- Omicron won't be the last COVID-19 variant, WHO says - WXYZ - January 19th, 2022
- The cGAS-STING pathway drives type I IFN immunopathology in COVID-19 - Nature.com - January 19th, 2022
- Lesson of the Day: At-Home Coronavirus Tests Are Inaccessible to Blind People - The New York Times - January 19th, 2022
- With many wondering whether Omicron means we're approaching the endemic phase of Covid-19, Fauci cautions it's still too soon to tell - CNN - January 18th, 2022
- Study on 4th COVID vaccine dose shows effectiveness; results against omicron unclear - WXYZ - January 18th, 2022
- Coronavirus in Ohio Monday update: Over 19,500 new cases, 2.4 million total - NBC4 WCMH-TV - January 18th, 2022
- Preparing for the endemic stage of COVID-19: What this looks like - KOIN.com - January 18th, 2022
- White House to offer free COVID tests beginning Wednesday how to get them - KXAN.com - January 18th, 2022
- COVID tests, other public service events on MLK Day in L.A. - Los Angeles Times - January 18th, 2022
- Covid loses 90% of ability to infect within 20 minutes in air study - The Guardian - January 18th, 2022
- Federal at-home COVID-19 tests will be available this week - KRIS Corpus Christi News - January 18th, 2022
- One year later: What symptoms do some COVID-19 patients still have? - WKBW-TV - January 18th, 2022
- Novel coronavirus - Wikipedia - January 16th, 2022
- Virus Outbreak: Covid (Coronavirus) News and Analysis From Jan. 15 - Bloomberg - January 16th, 2022
- Corona Virus SalzburgerLand.com - January 16th, 2022
- Protest in Netherlands against coronavirus measures - Reuters - January 16th, 2022
- For Coronavirus Testing, the Nose May Not Always Be Best - The New York Times - January 16th, 2022
- 14 more Mainers have died and another 1,359 coronavirus cases reported across the state - Bangor Daily News - January 16th, 2022
- Encouraging signs plan B Covid measures may soon be lifted in England - The Guardian - January 16th, 2022
- Experts warn against using Benadryl and milk to treat COVID, despite NC lawmakers post - KXAN.com - January 16th, 2022
- What do we know about the 175,000 people who died of Covid in the UK? - The Guardian - January 16th, 2022
- Coronavirus Data for January 12, 2022 | mayormb - Executive Office of the Mayor - January 16th, 2022
- How The mRNA Vaccines Were Made: Halting Progress and Happy Accidents - The New York Times - January 16th, 2022
- Brazil registers 48520 new cases of coronavirus and 175 deaths-health ministry - Reuters - January 16th, 2022
- 3 big Covid misconceptions people still have, according to infectious disease experts - CNBC - January 16th, 2022
- High demand for COVID testing calls Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall to action - KHON2 - January 16th, 2022
- The Covid Race to Watch: Vaccines vs. Variants - The Wall Street Journal - January 16th, 2022
- Hacking a home COVID test by adding a throat swab is a hot topic on Twitter : Goats and Soda - NPR - January 13th, 2022
- Coronavirus Data for January 11, 2022 | mayormb - Executive Office of the Mayor - January 13th, 2022
- Shawnee County Covid Indicator shows cases of coronavirus rising by more than 25% - KSNT News - January 13th, 2022
- Coronavirus in Ohio Thursday update: More than 19,000 new cases reported - NBC4 WCMH-TV - January 13th, 2022
- England cuts coronavirus isolation to 5 days - POLITICO Europe - January 13th, 2022
- COVID-19 in South Dakota: 2,584 total new cases; Death toll rises to 2,544; Active cases at 24,796 - KELOLAND.com - January 13th, 2022
- The Real Reason Americans Aren't Isolating - The Atlantic - January 13th, 2022
- China: Over 20 million in COVID-19 lockdown ahead of 2022 Olympics - NPR - January 13th, 2022
- Coronavirus in Arkansas: another record as over 10,000 new cases reported, 14 more deaths - KNWA - January 13th, 2022
- Utah surge ongoing with 12,990 new COVID-19 cases Thursday - fox13now.com - January 13th, 2022
- Increasing demand for coronavirus tests in Southern Oregon - KDRV - January 13th, 2022
- The Mood in the Capitol Was Already Dark. Then Came Omicron. - The New York Times - January 13th, 2022
- Information for travellers in regards to the corona virus ... - January 10th, 2022
- Corona Virus Update, Currently There Are 179 active ... - January 10th, 2022
- A Surge in Hospitalized Young Children Infected With the Coronavirus - The New York Times - January 10th, 2022
- Coronavirus in Ohio Sunday update: Just over 19,000 new cases and less than 100 new hospitalizations - WKBN.com - January 10th, 2022
- Coronavirus Briefing: A Pandemic of the Forgotten - The New York Times - January 10th, 2022
- COVID-19 surge has overwhelmed some Pa. hospitals and now their workers are getting sick, too - The Philadelphia Inquirer - January 10th, 2022
- Coronavirus: should the UK make vaccination mandatory? - The Guardian - January 10th, 2022
- COVID-19: UK records 141,472 new cases and further 97 coronavirus-related deaths - Sky News - January 10th, 2022
- Flu and Covid at the Same Time? Your 'Flurona' Questions, Answered - The New York Times - January 10th, 2022
- States are scrambling to keep up with an increase in Covid-19 hospitalizations and the demand for testing - CNN - January 10th, 2022
- Health experts want to focus on 'new normal' with the coronavirus | TheHill - The Hill - January 10th, 2022
- Chicago's COVID-19 fight with teachers hangs over a 2nd week - KMTV - 3 News Now - January 10th, 2022
- From delta to omicron, heres how scientists know which coronavirus variants are circulating in the US - KRQE News 13 - January 10th, 2022
- Coronavirus Watch: Oregon breaks COVID-19 case record for the third day running - KDRV - January 7th, 2022
- From delta to omicron, here's how scientists know which coronavirus variants are circulating in the US - The Conversation US - January 7th, 2022
- Understanding flurona: person has the flu and the coronavirus simultaneously - fox2now.com - January 7th, 2022
- Rapid nasal COVID tests feared to be returning false negatives - Axios - January 7th, 2022
- COVID infections hit another daily record in Louisiana as hospitalizations rise - The Advocate - January 7th, 2022
- Coronavirus Data for January 4, 2022 | mayormb - Executive Office of the Mayor - January 7th, 2022
- How TV Shows Are Moving Past the Coronavirus Pandemic - The New York Times - January 7th, 2022
- COVID-19 testing in Massachusetts impacted due to snow - WWLP.com - January 7th, 2022
- Washington to expand access to coronavirus tests, to help contain spread of COVID-19 - KOMO News - January 7th, 2022
- Coronavirus Omicron variant, vaccine, and case numbers in the United States: Jan. 7, 2022 - Medical Economics - January 7th, 2022
- Coronavirus in Ohio Thursday update: Another day of more than 19,000 new cases - WKBN.com - January 7th, 2022
- COVID-19: Did Omicron evolve in mice? - Medical News Today - January 7th, 2022
- Hogan says 10 new hospital-based COVID testing sites to open in Maryland - WTOP - January 7th, 2022
- Outbreak hits Rhode Island hospital after COVID-positive staff called in to work - fox4kc.com - January 7th, 2022
- Swedens king and queen test positive for the coronavirus. - The New York Times - January 5th, 2022
- W.H.O. Downplays Threat From New Virus Variant in France - The New York Times - January 5th, 2022
- Omicron estimated to be 95.4% of coronavirus variants in U.S. - CDC - Reuters - January 5th, 2022
- US COVID cases are on the rise, but this doctor sees hope on the horizon : Coronavirus Updates - NPR - January 5th, 2022
- Late-night hosts Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers test positive for COVID-19 - NPR - January 5th, 2022