Are COVID-19 at-home tests counted in health department data?

COVID testing statistics don't take into account at-home tests
Published: Dec. 29, 2021 at 6:30 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - As coronavirus case counts pile up, questions have arisen about whether those mounting totals include results from at-home tests.

“At-home tests are going to increase the number of the tests that we don’t know about for sure. There are more cases out there than we know about, and we talk about that with the public,” said New Hanover County Health Director David Howard.

But Howard said it’s not a big issue because most people using an at-home test get a secondary test at a pharmacy, urgent care or testing site, and then that person’s results are accounted for in the health department’s data.

Howard believes the positives outweigh the negatives, but not in terms of rapid test results.

“At home tests are great because they give broad coverage, and give broad community knowledge of status individually, and we simply advocate for them to follow the guidance to isolate or quarantine,” Howard said.

For the most part, people do just that. Even if their results aren’t reported, they take the proper steps once getting their at-home result.

“It’s a win there overall because as we advance out of the pandemic nature of this in terms of severity of illness, hopefully, at-home tests are very useful to help people indicate to themselves, their employers, their families, others that they typically get together with, that maybe they should isolate for the recommended days before passing it on to too many people,” Howard said.

With some uncertainty about rapid tests, including these at-home tests, Howard says if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 it’s a good idea to wait about 5-7 days before taking a test if you are vaccinated and asymptomatic. If you are not vaccinated, you should get a test immediately, but if the test result is negative, you should test again in 5-7 days.

“If you receive a negative test but you know you’ve been exposed to a positive person, or you have any symptoms at all, which may or may not be COVID, we encourage everyone to get a secondary confirmatory test,” said Howard.

Howard also added that it’s a good idea to get tested even if you think you might just have allergies or a common cold because the symptoms are so similar this time around.

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