Test hoppers skewing data

Georgia News

ATLANTA, Ga. (WJBF) – We’re digging deeper into the state’s data when it comes to COVID19 numbers. Around 1.5 million people in Georgia have now tested for the coronavirus with the state’s rate of positive tests at 11 percent.

But as more private labs test, we wanted to see how the state manages “Test Hoppers” people who test multiple times in a short window and if that skews the rate of positivity.

Augusta University can test up to 1000 people a day, but they don’t know if their test is the only test the patient is getting.

“But if someone got a test at CVS and comes to us tomorrow, we have no visibility and no way of preventing it.”

Test hoppers, those who may test as several locations, may skew the health data.

“We have one that tries to get tested daily because she cares for a medically fragile person daily. That’s not appropriate.”

Dr. Phillip Coule Vice President, Chief Medical Officer – Augusta University Health System

State numbers from Monday show a discrepancy of nearly 500 between confirmed cases, or people, and positive tests. AU has a system to prevent multiple tests by one person.

“If someone is positive, we have a pop word in our system that won’t allow them to order the test within 14 days because there is no indication to repeat someone who has tested positive.”

The state says if someone tested positive 10 days ago and rested today. They would not be added as a confirmed case but would be added in the positive tests.

“More testing won’t increase the cases. The cases are already there.No one is immune to it until you develop antibodies.”

Dr. Leo Nissola Author, Scholar, Immunologist

Tuesday’s data also shows that if a provider confirms a case directly without a lab reports, it would show a higher confirmed case number than positive tests.

“If someone tests negative we lock that at 72 hours because generally there is no indication to repeat someone for 72 hours.”

Dr. Phillip Coule

Doctors say Georgia’s rate of positive tests has gone up because of community spread, not necessarily a slight skew in data. AU says it transmits the patient’s demographic, address and date-of-birth to the state with only repeat tests done for patients in a hospital.

“A confirmed case is a single person that has tested positive for covid at least once.  If that same person tests positive again because they had a repeat test, we still only count that person as single case, since it is from the same infection. However, both tests will count toward total tests received and total positive results. This can lead to total testing being higher than confirmed cases.

However, when we report % PCR positive we are reporting on every individual positive PCR test that we receive via Electronic Lab Reporting (ELR) that had a positive result.  We may also receive case reports directly from a provider, in which case we don’t receive the ELR but we still count them as a case, because its based on the clinical diagnosis reported from the provider. This can lead to having more cases than positive tests reported.”

STATE HEALTH DEPARTMENT

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