Jan 11, 2022 - COVID

North Texas' at-home COVID test reporting is inconsistent

An at-home COVID swab casting a shadow in the shape of a question mark.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

As Omicron continues to surge, the state of Texas has no cohesive strategy to monitor the results of at-home rapid COVID tests.

Why it matters: Without knowing the results of at-home tests, health officials and the public have less information about the true number of cases.

  • Those numbers affect decisions about everything from childcare to remote work.

Details: Tarrant County has an extensive self-reporting tool.

Yes, but: Even when a locality has a system for reporting at-home results in place, their ad hoc nature means that it's often not immediately clear whether it'll be run by the city, county or state health department.

  • There's also no requirement to report an at-home positive result even if the service is available.
  • And many people don't even realize that they have the option at all.

The big picture: Rapid tests are already in short supply — and a small preprint study released this week found that people may not test positive with them until after they're infectious, which would make them an unreliable measure of whether it's safe to gather, as Axios' Caitlin Owens reported.

  • "Based on viral load and transmissions confirmed through epidemiological investigation, most Omicron cases were infectious for several days before being detectable by rapid antigen tests," the study's authors wrote.

The bottom line: Omicron may have exposed the limitations of at-home rapid tests — not only as a gauge of how big the current case surge truly is, but also as a possible pathway to avoid COVID disruptions in daily life.


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