Saturday, August 8, 2020

How Accurate Are Virus Tests? Ohio Governor’s Results Show Positives and Negatives

With testing delays nationwide, experts are increasingly recommending a new type of rapid test that gives less accurate results. It is imperfect, but as one expert put it, “pretty good is a lot better than none.”

Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio was surprised to receive a positive test result during a screening by the White House on Thursday. He later tested negative.Credit...Andrew Welsh Huggins/Associated Press

Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio received a negative coronavirus test result on Thursday, hours after a positive test result had stopped him from meeting with President Trump in Cleveland. The contradictory results during a high-profile moment underscored the challenges of testing, an issue that has repeatedly stymied the virus response in the United States.
“I’m sure the internet is lighting up with, ‘Well, you can’t believe any test,’” Mr. DeWine, a Republican, said during an interview with 92.3 WCOL, a Columbus radio station, on Friday.
“No one should take the results of this test and say, ‘Oh, none of these numbers are right,’” he added. “There is always a possibility for error.”
At issue are two types of coronavirus tests that are increasingly taking center stage as part of the virus response in the United States. As part of a screening by the White House, Mr. DeWine first received an antigen test, a newer type of test that provides faster results but is less accurate than traditional laboratory testing. He was later tested using a more standard procedure known as polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R., an accurate but time-intensive method that requires samples to be processed at a laboratory.

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