PHOENIX (3TV / CBS 5) – With more than 1,700 new cases of coronavirus reported by the state today, it may look like we’re seeing a new wave but the Arizona Department of Health Services says that is definitely not the case.
Just before the updated dashboard on Thursday, AZDHS presented an explanation for the increase. It depends on the results of a recently approved diagnostic test. Included in today’s update – and updates in the coming days – are results from tests done in recent months.
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Some doctors like Dr. Andrew Carroll is concerned about the accuracy of the new tests. Dr. Carroll said you should not have any reservations if your test is positive but if your test is negative he has an idea. “I think there should be a protocol to follow it up with a PCR test or another test that has accuracy just to be sure that the negative is actually negative,”
According to the AZDHS, the Food and Drug Administration approved a fourth antigen test for the diagnosis of COVID-19. Antigen testing is not the same as antibody testing, which requires blood sampling.
“An antibody [test] will look for the body’s defense system against a previous infection with COVID-19, “Dr. Cara Christ, head of AZDHS, told Arizona’s Family shortly after Thursday morning’s dashboard update.” If you have been exposed and your body made antibodies, then it will turn out to be positive. But that means you had the disease before. You do not currently have it.
However, an antigen test is designed to look for a current infection. It’s like quick tests for the flu or strep throat. The results are usually available at the test site, such as a doctor’s surgery, within one hour.
“This is just a test that enables people to get fast results,” explained Dr. Cara Christ, the AZDHS chief of Arizona’s Family shortly after the dashboard update on Thursday morning. “It gives you a quick result that you can use to make quick decisions.”
Antigen testing is what UArizona used as students and teachers returning to campus. The test also played a “role in the return of Pac-12 football.”
As antigen testing increases in availability in Arizona, we are likely to see more reported cases. The important thing to look at, according to Christ, is the percentage positivity – how many of the administered tests come back positive.
Christ also said that looking at trends over days and weeks – as opposed to daily data – gives a better overall picture of what is happening to the coronavirus in Arizona.
In the future, AZDHS will report “COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests” instead of “COVID-19 PCR Tests.” “This change will provide a more accurate picture of COVID-19 in Arizona going forward,” Christ wrote on the AZDHS website. “The use and reporting of various tests continues to evolve as we increase our understanding of COVID-19.”
Christ said that Arizonans have done a good job of following guidelines designed to help slow the spread of coronavirus – wearing a mask when out in public, practicing good hygiene habits, and staying home when sick. At the same time, she also has a warning. The virus does not disappear and the flu season is on its way.
“We know it still exists in society, so we must continue to take the same step,” she said, adding another step – getting a flu vaccine.
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