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Not all COVID-19 tests actually tested for coronavirus

Figuring percentage of positive tests tough
Posted at 4:46 PM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-23 19:01:48-04

PARMA, Ohio — Cuyahoga County's medical director said it could be several more days before she knows what percentage of people tested for COVID-19 have come back positive.

"We all want that number," said Dr. Heidi Gullett, Medical Director for the Cuyahoga County Board of Health.

But Gullett says finding that figure is difficult right now.

She 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.

The medical director said the county is mapping confirmed cases looking for clusters of the virus, then directing resources to those areas to try and stop the spread.

She's also working with local hospitals and labs to try and get an accurate number of tests performed to help track the percentage of patients testing positive.

"I want the public to know that we're trying to get that information," said Gullett. "But it's going to take us probably the rest of this week to flesh that out and accurate numbers, but that is something we're tracking."