I first caught COVID in April. When I woke up on a Friday morning, I had a sneaking suspicion that my mild nasal congestion was something more insidious. Within 30 seconds, a rapid home antigen test confirmed it.
My friends were surprised by my positive result; that was before the current wave really took off ― at least, as far as they know. Most people were lured into a false sense of security after the original strain of omicron passed through New York. The numbers were low, or so we all thought.
What probably happened – and still happens – is that the case rates were higher than the official statistics indicated. With the improved availability of home testing, more and more people are finding out they are sick on their own. The days of going to be tested are decreasing.
“Right now, COVID infection rates are underreported across the country, so we’re actually getting a falsely low infection count. Consequently, health authorities may feel that COVID is under control when it is not and be misled in their planning and recommendations,” said Dr. Michael Blaivas, Chief Medical Officer at Anavasi Diagnostics.
Accurate case counts help people make informed decisions about their health. They are also vital for community leaders, hospitals and more.
“If infections increase, the government may need to allocate additional resources for COVID care in hospitals, clinics and possibly take other measures like asking people to wear masks again,” Blaivas said. “Staff at your local hospital may be affected by falsely low numbers and, if a lot of people start showing up sick, they may not have the staff to care for everyone.”
“COVID infection rates are underreported across the country, so we’re actually getting a falsely low number of infections. Consequently, health authorities may feel that COVID is under control when it is not.
– Dr. Michael Blaivas, Chief Medical Officer at Anavasi Diagnostics
If we’re going to live in a world with COVID for a long time — as so many experts have said — we need to know when we’re experiencing surges.
“Until recently and the advent of home testing, virtually all testing was reported to the CDC and various states. Policy makers and health authorities knew very quickly when COVID was exploding and when it was getting under control” , Blaivas said, noting that an inaccurate representation of cases can mean that hospitals are not equipped to handle serious illnesses and intensive care admissions.
“Also, remember all the shortages of masks, sanitizers and medicine at the start of COVID?” Blaivas continued. “When authorities are unaware of the number of infections, they cannot work to stockpile supplies or at least ensure availability when people start getting really sick in large numbers. This puts everyone at risk. »
Finally, accurate case numbers allow researchers to plan future treatments and preventive measures. I am vaccinated and boosted and probably contracted the omicron BA.2 subvariant, as it is now the dominant strain. Fortunately, thanks to my vaccine, my case was not serious. This is useful information for scientists.
“Positive test results help us provide valuable information about how vaccines hold up against different variants,” said Chicago-based internist Dr. Vivek Cherian. “Ultimately, all of this information can be put together and influence the ultimate recommendations and advice from health experts.”
How to report your positive COVID test at home
There are several routes you can take to register your case, depending on where you live. The first and most logical step would be to call and let your GP know.
“Your doctor might find it prudent to intervene with some of the available treatment options, [which] may depend on your general health or vaccination status,” Cherian said.
However, Blaivas said you can’t always assume your doctor will report your case to the city or state if they didn’t perform the test themselves. Many home rapid tests come with an app, where you can receive or report your test result by scanning a QR code printed on the test.
“In some cases you will need to contact your health department,” Blaivas added. “It can call them, or for some states you can go to the state health website and report a COVID infection by filling out their online forms.”
The stressful and unfortunate reality is that we are in a wave of COVID ― and it certainly won’t be the last. Accurate numbers help us know when we’re approaching a power surge and encourage us to take extra precautions to protect ourselves and others.
Home testing is a great public health tool, but it’s not used to its full advantage if the case goes unrecorded. Make sure you do it, while taking care of yourself.
Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available at the time of publication, but advice may change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most recent recommendations.