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Why the rise of rapid tests makes COVID-19 case counts hard to trust

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Time, April 2022

By official counts, fewer people are being diagnosed with COVID-19 right now than at almost any other point during the pandemic. There were an average of 40,000 new cases per day as of April 19, compared to more than 800,000 per day at the height of the U.S. Omicron wave.

But official counts are increasingly misleading. More Americans than ever are testing positive on at-home tests—the results of which are rarely reported to public-health authorities, and are thus missing from official tallies. Public-health experts worry that case numbers are now an unreliable way to judge the state of the pandemic, and that there are countless more infections than statistics show.

Under the CARES Act, COVID-19 testing sites are required to report results to public-health departments. The results of proctored remote tests—which are sometimes required for activities including travel and involve a health professional supervising the test over video—are usually reported, too. But individuals aren’t required to report the results of their standard home tests. Some state health departments, like those in Colorado and Washington, collect self-reported data. Others, like Massachusetts, defer to local health departments. But in many places, there’s no established system.

Continue reading at Time.

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