Health experts concerned results from new COVID-19 test aren't included in Georgia case tally

Results from a new kind of coronavirus test are not included in Georgia’s overall tally of COVID-19 cases, which concerns health experts.

Dr. Amber Schmidtke, who once worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said new information from Georgia's most recent White House Coronavirus Task Force report indicating the state is no longer in the red zone, as it has been since June, shows promise.

"It's definitely good news, but there’s some question as to whether this downward trend is real right now," Dr. Schmidtke said.

Dr. Schmidtke also said less uncomfortable coronavirus tests, promising faster results aren’t included in Georgia’s statewide COVID-19 tally, potentially making information in that report misleading.

The last time Georgia had less than 100 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people was before the summer spike.

"It’s been part of the White House Coronavirus Task Force coronavirus recommendations for the state of Georgia...They’ve been telling us to do it, telling us to count those as cases when identified through that testing method," she said.

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The increasingly popular assessments are called rapid antigen tests. They can return results in about 20 minutes, as opposed to days or weeks.

"The downside is it’s not quite as reliable," Dr. Schmidtke said. "Meaning, you can trust a positive identified through that test, but you can’t necessarily trust a negative with those tests."

Dr. Schmidtke said the rapid antigen tests are becoming increasingly popular, as the state reports a decrease in its coronavirus testing.

"So, the question is ‘is that decreasing for the RT-PCR because of the gaining popularity of the other test method?' 'Are we seeing an ever limited view of what’s going on with cases and where they’re occurring,’" she said.

The Georgia Department of Public health explained the delayed inclusion of these results to FOX 5.

“DPH is in the process of onboarding facilities that do antigen testing into the Electronic Laboratory Reporting system, and because CDC case definitions recently changed, we are doing some internal reworking of case classifications. When that is complete, we will have more confidence in our ability to accurately isolate these cases from others and will begin sharing the data on the website," a representative wrote in an email.

Dr. Schmidtke said other states are finding ways to use what's accurate from the rapid antigen tests.

"What they’ve done to categorize those is they've called them ‘probable’ cases," she said.

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