The results of at-home COVID-19 tests have no reporting system, making it challenging for experts to track accurate COVID-19 case counts.
SEATTLE — The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) said only a fraction of COVID-19 cases are reported to the state.
This makes it difficult for health experts to predict when a new wave of infections will come.
At-home COVID-19 testing is easy, accessible and free through the federal government.
But the experts studying COVID-19 trends said home testing introduces inaccuracies in the data.
“We’re definitely missing cases,” said Dr. Helen Chu, associate professor in the UW Medical Department of Epidemiology
A vast majority of positive COVID-19 cases go unreported to the state, Chu said.
“We probably only capture 10% of positive cases through reporting,” Chu said.
In a statement to KING 5, the DOH said, “Due to home testing and other factors (like people not testing at all), reported cases probably only account for about 15% of Washington’s infections.”
Therefore, according to Chu, it is difficult to predict when a new wave of cases will come our way.
“So people still look at the dashboards and say the numbers don’t look that high,” Chu said. “They look like they’re sinking. But that’s because we don’t have the data.”
Instead of case counts, the Department of Health is now using hospital data to understand the prevalence of COVID.
“However, at this stage of the pandemic, our focus has shifted from caseload to hospital capacity as a key indicator of the state’s health,” DOH said in a statement.
Chu said UW Medicine uses the same metrics, but argues that the system also has its flaws.
“Hospitalizations increase only a week or two after the number of cases in the community has gone,” Chu said. “So we can track it, but we’re probably a few weeks late to see an imminent surge. I think we missed the boat here by not developing a system that mandates the collection of home antigen test data.”
To report a positive case of COVID-19 from a home test to the state, call the COVID-19 hotline at 1-800-525-0127.
Despite the difficulty in reporting cases, the state continues to recommend at-home COVID testing, along with other preventive measures, the gebct said in a statement:
“In addition to getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, washing hands and practicing physical distancing, frequent home testing can help you protect your families and friends and is a great way to help in the fight against COVID-19. We recommend testing if you feel sick, think you have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, are planning to attend a gathering or large event, or are traveling. Households across the state are eligible for free COVID-19 testing from the Department of Health through our Say Yes! COVID Test Initiative. This is in addition to the federal initiative. Households can place two orders each month, which include up to 10 free trials per month. Orders can be placed online via sayyescovidhometest.org or the DOH COVID Hotline.”
If someone tests positive for COVID, it’s important to stay home and continue to take all necessary precautions to keep yourself and those around you safe.
Individuals can also report their test results from an at-home test through the DOH hotline.
https://www.king5.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/small-percentage-covid-19-cases-reported-to-washington/281-9c1a783e-b288-4293-b81c-085850c69794 Just 10-15% of COVID-19 cases are reported in Washington state