(WXYZ) — As millions of at-home test kits fly off shelves around the country amid the surge of omicron, experts say there is growing concern about accuracy of COVID-19 case counts from the state and local health departments.
Birmingham native Christopher Shaya says after experiencing symptoms New Year's Eve, he took an at-home test and learned he was positive.
"The at-home test was certainly helpful because the day I took it, I don’t know that I had the energy to go to another urgent care," said Shaya.
Being vaccinated and receiving a booster shot prior to this, Shaya then took all the CDC-recommended steps, including quarantining, notifying his employer, and anyone else in close contact.
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But after calling his own provider and the Oakland County Health Department, he was surprised to find they did not have a portal to self-report, only a general email option on their COVID page.
“A portal or something. That’s why this is a great story. I don’t know if it’s talked about enough, how to self report, so everyone knows exactly what’s going on," said Shaya.
We checked with Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties to ask if any of them have a system to track positive tests taken at home, and include them in their stats. All three said no: Macomb County simply urges those who test positive to take a PCR test, Oakland says they have no mechanism to include the date.
Wayne County also issued the following statement:
"We continue to recommend and encourage all residents to get vaccinated and boosted. The purpose of at-home tests is to facilitate self-management based upon Covid-19 status and minimize the number of residents presenting to Emergency Departments at hospitals with COVID symptoms. The self tests should facilitate appropriate isolation and quarantine protocols and aid in awareness and alerting close contacts of your status. If the test is positive, residents should self quarantine for 5 days, per CDC recommendations. Wayne County is not asking residents to report if they test positive using an at-home test. While the lack of a reporting requirement is a drawback, at-home tests still provide the benefit of self-awareness and further assists in minimizing the transmission of the virus."
In part of a statement, MDHHS simply says "call your local health dept." They also mention that some at-home tests have a portal for reporting.
Oakland University Professor of foundational medical studies Dwayne Baxa says it’s no secret many are skipping a long wait at testing sites that report data officially.
"The more accurate the better. Anything we can do to increase that number would be important," he said.
But accuracy issues are also sometimes fueled by confusion.
"Today the CDC says this, and the next week, the CDC says that," said Baxa.
We also asked Beaumont Health Director of Infectious Disease Research Dr. Matthew Sims for his view.
"With these huge numbers of cases we are reporting, we are underestimating, because there are so many positive tests we aren’t accounting for," said Dr. Sims. "It should mention, at-home testing is not included in these numbers, this is just testing through health care systems.”
While some at home test kits do offer their own reporting option, Shaya is emailing in his status as a way of doing his part.
“I think it’s best to get the best information, that’s how I would view things in my life and line of work," said Shaya.
He agrees that public policy should be guided by the most up to date info available, considering the countless lives at stake.