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Why the state and county stopped reporting negative COVID-19 test results

Posted at 11:39 AM, Mar 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-25 11:39:46-04

CLEVELAND — At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ohio Department of Health reported negative test results during their daily update of confirmed coronavirus cases and those under investigation. But that all changed as more hospitals and private labs began doing their own testing, making it difficult to keep track of each person tested in the state.

So why did the state stop reporting negative test results?

During a state briefing on COVID-19 Monday, Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton said since hospitals and labs started doing their own testing, with some expanding it with a drive-thru option, the state doesn't have the capacity to collect and process that data.

"It’s a decision the hospital association, myself and others are wrangling because we equally would like to know how many are being tested," Acton said.

Acton said she and her team are trying to get as much data out possible, but reminds the public it's difficult to get an accurate number as there is not widespread testing available, pointing to the fact that some communities only have one or two test kits available, and they are saving them for a dire situation in a nursing home or hospital.

"The way this has played out between the private and public sector, it’s just not something we have a handle on in our state right now," Acton said.

On a county level, Dr. Heidi Gullett, of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, said the state health department stopped requiring labs to submit negative test results last week amid a surge of testing statewide.

"There's not a good, systematic way right now to do that and it's partly because of the number of positives that need to be entered and the amount of information," said Gullett.

Additionally, she said not every patient tested for COVID-19 actually has that sample tested for the coronavirus. That's because the sample is first tested for influenza and the respiratory virus RSV.

Gullett said if the sample tests positive for one of those viruses, in most cases it's not also tested for coronavirus.

While she said it is possible for a patient to have more than one of the viruses, because of limited testing capacity, it's typically not tested for multiple unless requested by a doctor.

RELATED: Not all COVID-19 tests actually tested for coronavirus

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