Are COVID-19 self tests causing an underreporting of cases?

Local News

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — At home rapid COVID-19 tests are flying off shelves in the Rio Grande Valley but not all at self tests are always reported to the county health departments.

When you get a COVID-19 test at a doctor’s office or at a testing site — the person or organization giving the test is required to provide the results to the state and county. But when you test yourself you don’t have that same legal obligation.

There are a few types of at-home tests a person can take. Some that are watched by a healthcare provider online and some that you do alone.

Dr. James Castillo, the Cameron County health authority said “If somebody is doing the proctored ones or if there’s a healthcare provider on tele medicine or they mail it in, then those tests are going to be provided by the healthcare provider or the lab.”

For tests without a proctor, there’s no way to prove the person took it, so it’s hard to punish someone if they test positive but don’t report it.

“There’s going to be people testing that we don’t know about,” Castillo said. “That’s fine as long as they take all the appropriate actions.”

Appropriate actions are quarantining and notifying any close contacts so they can get tested as well.

Just because you don’t have to report a positive test to your doctor or the county doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Castillo recommended people who test positive contact their doctor or county health department so they can advise them on the next steps and possible treatments.

Dr. Ivan Melendez, the Hidalgo County health authority, said there can still be repercussions if you are positive and found to be spreading COVID-19 through later contact tracing.

“People get letters of restraint and quarantine, and if you do not follow those then of course you can be arrested and placed in isolation in an incarceration facility,” he said.

Rapid tests you do at home are accurate but they’re more effective for people who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 than those that are asymptomatic.

Not being perfect shouldn’t discourage their use.

“It’s great, it’s a tool that should be used,” Melendez said. “But, at the same time, let’s remember that it certainly doesn’t compare to the PCRs that are done at formal laboratories.”

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