Georgia’s COVID-19 Case Count Doesn’t Include Rapid Test Results

Rapid antigen tests provide results in 15 minutes.

Jeff Chiu / AP

Georgia case numbers of COVID-19 might be underreported because rapid antigen tests are not included in the daily count.

State officials say only if someone with a positive rapid antigen test also gets a regular PCR, or molecular test, that confirms COVID-19 are they added to the daily count.

“So the true numbers of cases in Georgia are considerably higher than what they’re reporting,” said Dr. Karen Kinsell, a physician in southwest Georgia’s Clay County.  “I know in our area, most tests are done with rapid tests, and they’re simply not counted,” she said.

Earlier this month, Georgia received 207,000 Abbott BinaxNOW Rapid COVID-19 tests that were distributed statewide to be used at universities, among first responders and at county health departments. They’re the tests that give results in 15 minutes. By the end of the year, Georgia is expected to get 3 million of these rapid tests.

State officials say they do count the positive rapid tests, but only as probable cases, until the PCR retest.

“However, not everyone who has a positive antigen test gets retested by PCR test,” state Department of Public Health spokesperson Nancy Nydam said.

Total probable cases show up in the DPH county data, where they stand at more than 21,000 so far. This type of data could soon get displayed in a more timely, more prominent way.

“We are working to get antigen tests added to the Daily Status Report in the same way serology tests are displayed,” Nydam said.

As for contact tracing, health officials said they treat probable cases the same as confirmed cases to “prevent further spread of COVID-19 infection.”