EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported more than 15,000 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday.
But the daily infections we’re hearing about might be just the tip of the iceberg. That’s because so many of us have been using at-home COVID test kits since the emergence of the omicron variant. Many of those test results don’t get reported and that comes with consequences.
Earlier this month, Jenny Hetro showed me how she determined she had COVID-19.
“You take this little card, you put the solution in, you swab your nose on both sides,” Hetro explained.
She used an at-home rapid antigen test to find out in just a few minutes she had the virus. Now fully recovered, she recalls what she did after first learning her results.
“I did end up calling my healthcare provider,” Hetro said.
But like other Pennsylvanians who test positive at home for COVID, there is no requirement to report those results to the local or state health department.
“Obviously it would help if we knew every test but in all reality that’s not the way it is,” Wilkes-Barre City Health Department Director Henry Radulski said.
Radulski says the state relies strictly on certified testing sites for its COVID case counts.
“Any test that is done whether it’s PCR or rapid that’s done in an approved provider actually goes into an electronic database. So, all those records are in there. So, the numbers we see daily on TV reports do not include home-based tests,” Radulski said.
By not getting the clearest picture of COVID community spread, it could make it more difficult to determine specific health recommendations like increasing mitigation efforts or easing up on restrictions. More difficult perhaps, but Radulski says not impossible.
“We look at the data that we have so that’s the core, that’s the baseline that we have. And with the number of positives that we’re having, you know that kind of sets the tone there,” Radulski said.
He does encourage you if you test positive for COVID at home to reach out to your healthcare provider for your sake and others.
“The goal is not to spread that disease and if you know that you’re positive you can take the appropriate action to prevent that,” Radulski said.
It’s important to point out that some states and health departments do use self-reporting methods. In the meantime, Radulski encourages anyone with a positive result from at-home testing to notify the state through its contact tracing app.