Virginia changes how it counts COVID-19 testing, separates antibody tests

PSI Covid Testing 01.jpeg
Posted at 1:46 PM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-14 14:08:41-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Department of Health announced Thursday, going forward, they will break up testing numbers by PCR (diagnostic) and antibody (serology).

This comes after the state recently started adding antibody tests to their testing total.

Antibody tests check your blood by looking for antibodies, which show if you had a previous infection with the virus.

The test may not find antibodies in someone with a current COVID-19 infection and should not be used to diagnose someone as being currently sick with COVID-19, according to the CDC.

Once the antibody tests were removed, Virginia's percent-positive average went up one point to 15%.

Related: Why Virginia is giving fewer COVID-19 tests than almost any other state

“Antibody tests make up less than nine percent of overall tests. When these tests are removed from total results, there is minimal change in the percent positive of tests and no difference in overall trends,” VDH wrote in a release Thursday.

The VDH says they define a case as confirmed when there is a positive PCR test.

“In the past three weeks the number of antibody tests being utilized has increased in Virginia. Due to this change, going forward the Virginia Department of Health will provide a breakdown of the COVID-19 test data by all test types and by only PCR tests,” the department wrote.

Governor Ralph Northam explained why the separation in data has been made in a series of tweets Thursday morning.

"@VDHgov has been reporting all tests, regardless of the type of test, since the beginning of this health crisis. When I found out recently that data from all types of tests were being combined, I immediately directed that the diagnostic tests be separated out," he tweeted.

“I am a doctor, and I have said all along that I will act based on science and data—and the data must be reliable and up-to-date, so we can make informed decisions based on the facts.

Going forward, the @VDHgov website will break out the number of diagnostic tests.”

Related: Could antibody testing help illuminate COVID-19 exposure?

Depend on CBS 6 News and for the most complete coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Precautions

Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.

COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.

Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.Avoid non-essential travel.