CLEVLEAND — A woman from Stow is questioning just how accurate COVID tests are after she got letters saying two of her kids were positive, even though they had never been tested. Amanda Naso got the notification letters from the Summit County Public Health Department.
“It’s been stressful,” Naso said.
Stressful because during a pandemic, Naso’s whole family had mild cold symptoms. She took her two older kids to be tested. Her husband’s employer wanted him to get tested as a precaution.
His rapid test came back positive, but that wasn’t the end of it.
“They were going to do other testing, just because of the uncertainty of the rapid, especially after the governor’s false positive on a rapid,” Naso told us.
A blood test came back inconclusive for her husband. A more comprehensive, sensitive PCR test was negative. Naso also says her test and the two older kids’ tests were negative, too.
Then the letters arrived.
“I have two letters in front of me that these are positive tests and where these children were never at the doctor,” said Naso.
Naso said her two youngest children never saw a medical professional and were never tested.
We asked Summit County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda about Naso’s claims.
“I will not answer any details to a specific case,” she told us.
Skoda did say that in general, if someone tests positive, the people they are in contact with and showing symptoms may be reported as positive cases by a physician.
"But that would be the physician's call," Skoda said in a message to News 5. "We do not determine cases. They are reported to us."
So, we turned our attention to testing.
“How reliable are the rapid tests?” we asked.
“That’s debatable,” Skoda said.
Her reasons? She says she’s seen some strange testing kits out there and the novel virus keeps changing.
“The testing (accuracy) has been sporadic,” said Skoda.
So, what happens if someone gets a positive rapid test and a negative PCR test?
“If a person is reporting symptoms and has one of those two tests positive, (doctors) could very well report it as positive,” said Skoda.
As we found out during our research into this story, health departments in Ohio are not matching up rapid tests with PCR tests to see how often they are false. Skoda told us the Ohio Department of Health is now ordering that negative test results be reported to the state as well as the positive tests.
If physicians or labs are classifying positive rapid test results as confirmed positive cases, that would seem to run contrary to classification guidelines set by the Ohio Department of Health.
Their documentation lists a positive PCR test as the only confirmatory laboratory evidence that would result in a case being classified as confirmed. A positive result on a rapid antigen test is just presumptive evidence, ODH documents state, and that alone would classify the case as suspected or probable.
Summit County Public Health said the letters Naso received are just a misunderstanding. Skoda said generally that in some cases, the letters sent out to patients are poorly-worded and should say the case is "probable" instead of "positive."
As for Naso, she says she's reached the point where she no longer trusts the numbers.
Skoda defended the county's reporting around coronavirus numbers.
"I'm confident in the testing because we live where we have robust care and our labs and hospitals operate with high standards," she said. "There is no benefit to anyone reporting something that is inaccurate."
Naso told us she’s been contacted by the Ohio State Auditor’s Office. The auditor is part of a multi-state examination of just how accurate COVID testing is. That way his office can pass along the results.
"(We) provide valuable feedback to our key policymakers during the pandemic now to confirm the data for Ohioans,” said the auditor’s press secretary, Allie Dumski.
You can submit any results you think are questionable to the auditor’s website.
Dumski said that audit should be wrapped up by the end of the year.