Last week Northeast Ohioans scoured pharmacy shelves and doctor’s office websites looking for COVID-19 tests.
This week, we’re beginning to get the results back, and case counts reported over the weekend show a number of infections not seen since last winter.
Nearly 21,000 new COVID-19 cases were reported to the state over the last 48 hours, including Saturday and Sunday, according to Ohio Department of Health numbers.
Officials worry that those numbers may not reflect the true scope of the outbreak. Many people used at-home self-administered tests whose results are only included in the state health department counts if patients report their results to their doctor or a local or state health department, said a spokesperson with the Ohio Department of Health.
The CDC recommends users of these test make the reports, but it’s unclear how many test users are aware of that recommendation or chose to comply.
“There’s a lot of concern that they’re underreported because not everyone understands, and some folks are doing it just for their own knowledge. They don’t want it reported,” said Summit County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda. “You’re supposed to report it, but there’s no way to know if you don’t report it.”
If a person is tested at a pharmacy, doctor’s office, urgent care or community health center, results are reported to health officials by the lab that runs the test, according to ODH. If a person uses a proctored at-home test, they are guided through the testing process during a virtual appointment. Those results are reported to health officials by the telehealth provider.
But patients using an at-home self-administered test have to report results themselves to be included in the case tallies.
Demand for all tests, including the at-home self-administered type soared last week and many retailers sold out of the tests as families planned holiday get-togethers.
How underreported the numbers may be is hard to say, Skoda said. That leaves public health officials to use the data they do have.
“We don’t say that these numbers are absolutely the end-all and cure-all. They’re not,” Skoda said. But they do give officials an idea about what is happening in the community, she said.
The demand for tests alone tipped Summit County officials to the need for a public testing site. The site at 1077 Gorge Blvd. will open Tuesday and registration is required.
Results from those tests will be included in the official count.
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