With hundreds of millions of free rapid-result COVID-19 tests being mailed out to homes, a common question people are asking is: Am I required to report a positive result to local health authorities? No, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the federal agency recommends that people isolate and inform their health-care providers. Some states, such as Washington, have set up a reporting hotline, while local health departments such as Marin County, California, and Tompkins County, New York, have online self-reporting forms. Washington, D.C.’s health department also has an iPhone feature and Android app.
But a newly released national survey of nearly 11,000 people finds that 31% of those who tested positive at home for the virus that causes COVID-19 did not follow up with a more accurate polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test at their doctor’s office or a testing facility, and thus are likely not captured in official data. Researchers discovered that hours-long waits for testing coupled with the fact that some health-care facilities actually discouraged people from coming in are some of the causes for people not following through.
Still, wouldn’t it be better if the government had more accurate data on positive case counts? Yes, says David Lazer, university distinguished professor of political science and computer science at Northeastern, and one of the study’s authors, but the data was already messed up to begin with.