Although at-home tests for COVID-19 are available at many retailers across the country, the results of these tests are usually not reported to government agencies and are therefore not factored into the official case count, USA Today reports.
It’s currently unclear how often the results of home tests are reported to public health agencies, according to USA Today. Public health officials told the newspaper that reporting cases is crucial for them to determine trends and locate virus hotspots so they can prepare hospitals for an influx of patients.
“The whole issue of us tracking every single case is just not going to be possible anymore with these (home) tests,” Marcus Plescia, the chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, told USA Today. “We need to move to a different approach.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed to the newspaper that it is currently unable to track the results of at-home tests, but the agency did say that it is coordinating with the companies that manufacture these tests to ensure that customers are able to conveniently report their results via an app or website, though a spokesperson did say that “the amount of data that have flowed as a result of these efforts (is) a tiny fraction of all COVID-19 testing data.”
Analysis from a research team led by Arizona State University professor Mara Aspinall found that the U.S. could make up to 141 million antigen home tests by the end of this month, and that number could reach 424 million by the end of next month. That would be greater than the number of PCR tests that doctors, labs, or other medical settings could perform in that same time frame. However, the results in tests performed in medical settings are regularly reported to public health agencies, while Aspinall estimates that only about 10% of home test results are ever reported.
“The vast majority are not reported,” Aspinall said. “We have to be realistic about what we know and what we don’t know.”
Abbott Laboratories, the company behind the most popular COVID-19 home test, the BinaxNOW COVID-19 self-test, said that they did not know what portion of their consumers reported the results of their tests.
“The ability for people to more easily self-report BinaxNow test results will allow communities as well as organizations, such as schools and workplaces using self-tests, to quickly detect rising COVID-19 cases or potential outbreaks enabling fast and informed decisions on safety measures,” a spokeswoman for the company told USA Today.
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