Texas not counting certain COVID-19 test results

Tens of thousands of positives coming from a certain type of COVID-19 test are not being included in the state’s reporting of cases.

Local and state health officials say only the nose swab, PCR test results are currently included in their reporting numbers. 

"The numbers that we’re reporting to you and the ones that are going to the state are the PCR tests only," said Dr. David Persse with the Houston Health Department. 

"The principal one is the PCR tests and that's the gold standard," said Chris Van Deusen with Texas Department of State Health Services.

Van Deusen says the main reason both the antibody and rapid antigen tests are currently excluded in state numbers is that they can often provide false negatives. Even if a person does test positive, it’s only considered a “probable” case. 

"Both of those if they're positive lead to what is called a probable case. So it's not a laboratory confirm, but it's a probable case and it's just a different classification," Van Deusen said. 

Van Deusen said the case definitions are determined by a council of epidemiologists and are used by the CDC, as well as state and local health departments.

The state has received somewhere between 10,000 to 20,000 probable positives from local jurisdiction, according to Van Deusen. However, those cases are not included in the total 440,000+ cases currently reported in Texas.

Rapid antigen tests have a chance of providing a false negative 15 to 30% of the time, according to Dr. Persse.

However, officials don't seem to think that this might skew the entire scope of what’s actually happening in Houston and in our state. 

"In our community, that doesn’t make a huge difference. There’s not a lot of antigen testing that’s going on. There’s some and there will be more as time goes on but at this point, it’s still a very small percentage of the number of tests that are being done," Dr. Persse said. 

"I think that the important thing to remember is that we're looking at the trends here. So we're seeing those cases track up track down over time and that's really informing our decision making," Van Deusen said.

Even though officials say a “probable” COVID-19 case is not “confirmed” anyone who receives a positive test result should treat it as such and take all the necessary precautions.