With a growing number of COVID-19 rapid tests available, the U.S. can test millions of people each day, but many of the results may be unreported, according to The Associated Press.
All testing sites are required to report positive and negative results, but not all sites have the reporting process in place, according to the AP, including schools and assisted living facilities.
“Schools certainly don’t have the capacity to report these tests,” Jeffrey Engel, senior advisor for COVID-19 at the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, told the AP.
“If it’s done at all, it’s likely going to be paper-based, very slow and incomplete,” he said.
At the beginning of the pandemic, diagnostic tests were processed at commercial laboratories and hospitals, and the results were sent to state health departments. Now that rapid antigen tests are available for doctor’s offices, clinics and other testing sites, public health officials are finding it tougher to track the tests.
Testing and reporting practices vary by state as well. In mid-September, more than 20 states didn’t release rapid test results or had incomplete data, according to a report by Kaiser Health News and USA Today.
At the time, states reported a mix of policies. Some didn’t report all of their antigen test results, and some didn’t count positive results as COVID-19 cases. About half of the states said their antigen test results were underreported, they told the news outlets.
As more rapid tests are shipped this fall to schools, colleges and nursing homes, the gap will likely increase, the AP reported. In some states, testing sites are sending faxes or paper reports to public health departments, which delays the results seen in daily updates.
“It’s definitely a challenge because now we have to do many more things manually than we were with electronic reporting,” Kristen Ehresmann, director of infectious diseases at the Minnesota Department of Health, told the AP.