With yesterday’s column surging well over 1,200 words and my daily journalism time running short, I left the last COVID “surge” factor explanation for today. Rest assured, that temporary omission renders today’s topic no less important.
You see, the single coronavirus “surge” statistic that’s bothered me the most is the prevalence’s sudden shift from 1 in 25 to 1 in 20. That’s the first time that number has moved in the wrong direction since the plague commenced.
For reference purposes, a 1 in 25 prevalence means that, for every 25 COVID tests administered, they get one positive result. And that 40 Illinois infections for every thousand tests trend has held true since early June.
That kind of change typically means one of two things. Either the disease has become more contagious, or a higher percentage of symptomatic folks are seeking to be tested. Since there’s no indication that either option is the case, there had to third possibility.
So, after hearing some new anecdotal evidence about a slew of recent false positive tests, I, once again, turned to my expert sources, and their unflinchingly swift response to my Abbott Labs rapid coronavirus test accuracy question was, “THEY’RE NOT!
Rapid tests are a relatively new and far less expensive option that, unlike the previous 48-hour iteration, can provide a result in just 15 minutes. For all the obvious reasons, rapid tests are becoming a more popular option such that the federal government will shortly be shipping 100 million of ‘em to schools, long-term care facilities, assisted living centers and the like.
For reference purposes, about 50 percent of the U. S. coronavirus tests being currently administered are rapid tests. But they do have a downside!
The first is, though they’re quite accurate when it comes to people suffering from COVID symptoms, they generate far too many false positives with those who aren’t! To wit, my expert said if you get a positive rapid test result, you should immediately get yourself re-tested by the 48-hour variety.
The second issue, according to the Chicago Tribune, is that schools, and even large laboratories and hospitals, can’t begin to keep up with rapid test reporting. Since those tests are typically used as a precautionary measure on symptomless students, athletes, and health care workers, that lack of negative result reporting is skewing the infection numbers upwards.
Put more simply, the rapid test results that are reported contain too many false positives and a significant percentage of them aren’t being reported at all! And there’s no way to “retract” a false positive test result from the COVID case total, either! This is clearly the best and only explanation for the sudden shift in the prevalence trend.
The bottom line? Despite what the current stats say, I firmly believe our 1 in 25 prevalence stands. That means a lack of negative test reports combined with false positive rapid test results are also contributing to our recent COVID-10 “surge.”