At-home COVID tests could be contributing to higher positivity rate, local doctors say

Coronavirus

ROCHESTER N.Y. (WROC) — The positivity rate for COVID-19 is rising in Monroe County, with a 5% rolling seven-day average reported on Friday.

However, local health officials say this percentage alone may not be offering a full picture. They say a significant amount of people fail to report negative test results with at-home kits, contributing to a higher positive rate.

“The at-home tests are very difficult to track because it relies on the person who is conducting the test to report them,” said Dr. Michael Mendoza. “We feel confident we are getting the positive results, but as far as the negatives go, I don’t think we are getting all of the negative results.”

Dr. Mendoza says this could be contributing to an “artificially high” infection rate.

Dr. Ed Walsh, infectious disease expert with Rochester Regional Health says there’s a number of different metrics doctors use to determine severity of transmission in the community. But each one has some bias to consider.

“For example, you can have many more positive tests, if many people go to get tests,” he said.

Dr. Walsh says the amount of breakthrough positive cases are also on the rise — another factor to consider when looking at a high positivity rate. He says they’re often very minor.

Dr. Mendoza says for those who got vaccinated six months ago, immunity is starting to wear off, contributing to more breakout cases.

Dr. Walsh says one of the best ways to measure severity of transmission, is looking at a community’s hospitalization.

“How many people are being hospitalized, and how many people are dying,” he said.

Dr. Walsh says current hospitalization rates are stable, but ‘certainly not low’, and a fair amount are breakthrough cases. He says the most severe breakouts are seen in older patients, and those with weaker immune systems.

The takeaway: a high positivity rate doesn’t mean the same as it did a year ago. We now have a vaccine, and we have more testing. The responsibility lies on the public to report their results no matter what they are and consider getting the vaccine, health officials say.

“We still are seeing a lot of people in the hospital more than we like, and I think in order for us to get that down, we really have to target and go after non immunized individuals,” said Dr. Walsh.

To report at-home test results in Monroe County, head over to this link, or call 753- 5555.

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