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Will more rapid tests change how America counts Covid cases?

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Millions of rapid at-home Covid tests are flying off pharmacy cabinets throughout the United States, giving Americans an immediate, if typically imperfect, learn on whether or not they’re contaminated with the coronavirus.

But the outcomes are hardly ever reported to public well being departments, exacerbating the longstanding challenges of sustaining an correct rely of instances at a time when the variety of infections is surging due to the Omicron variant.

At the minimal, the widespread availability of at-home tests is wreaking havoc with the accuracy of official positivity charges and case counts. At the opposite excessive, it’s one issue making some public well being specialists elevate a query that when would have been unthinkable: Do counts of coronavirus instances serve a helpful function, and if not, ought to they be continued?

“Our entire approach to the pandemic has been case-based surveillance: We have to count every case, and that’s just not accurate anymore,” mentioned Dr. Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer on the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, a nationwide nonprofit group representing public well being companies within the United States.

“It’s just becoming a time where we’ve got to think about doing things differently.”