Local health officials warn of false COVID test results

Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 6:58 PM EST
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Local health officials say they’ve noticed a surge in false COVID test results.

Think you have COVID? Health officials say it’s hard to be sure, because positive cases of the highly contagious Omicron variant continue to fluctuate.

“On the 9th we had like another 300 and something cases reported,” said Pamela Kirkland with the Columbus Health Department. “Then it dropped down to 110. Then it went back up to 410.”

Kirkland says the bulk of those positive cases involve children ages 10 to 17.

So how long should you wait to get tested after you’re exposed to COVID? Officials say get tested as soon as you begin experiencing symptoms or anywhere from five to seven days after exposure. When you finally are tested, they recommend one particular test for the most accurate results.

“The PCR is really, truly the gold standard,” said Physician Assistant Terri Jordan. “That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use the antigen test because it really does capture a lot of positives.”

With this particular variant, officials say more patients are getting false COVID test results. To ensure accurate results, they recommend waiting longer for PCR swab tests results as opposed to taking at home or rapid COVID tests.

“So we go ahead and do the standard test that takes about one to two days to get the results back just to be sure that if we do get a negative result, that it actually is negative,” said Kirkland.

“The home antigen tests really truly have a higher false negative and false positive rate than the ones actually done in clinics,” said Jordan.

However, officials say it can take up to 90 days for the virus to be completely gone out of your system. For that reason, Terri Jordan at Acute Care Emergence recommends taking a rapid COVID test after you quarantine for five days for the most accurate results.

The Health Department is still offering drive-thru COVID tests at the Civic Center from 9 a.m. to noon until Saturday each week. They are asking people to register online before the appointment by clicking here.

Acute Care Emergence has also been prescribing PAXLOVID to treat COVID-positive patients.

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