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More testing data available online.

Today, we added a separate antigen positive cases section to our COVID-19 data dashboard to give more information about disease spread in our community.

The table includes the number of people who tested positive using an antigen test. You will see this number fluctuate often, but the table is another indicator of disease spread in Pierce County.

We will also record the number of people who died of COVID-19 confirmed by an antigen test.

So far 296 people tested positive for COVID-19 with an antigen test and one person died from COVID-19, confirmed by an antigen test with COVID-19 listed on the death certificate.

COVID-19 antigen tests are popular because of their quick results. We used them in our school testing pilot. The first antigen test received an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in early May. The second EUA for an antigen test came two months later. Antigen tests allow responses in a matter of minutes instead of days.  The Health Department has CareStart and BinaxNow antigen tests available to help your business, group, or organization conduct testing of your employees, community, or organization members.  Fill out this form and somebody from the Health Department will get in touch with you.

PCR (polymerase chain reaction) continues to be the most reliable COVID-19 test. The faster antigen test sometimes lacks reliability. False negatives are more of a concern, but luckily rarer than a false positive.

Often, as with our school testing pilot, if a person tests positive with an antigen tests, a healthcare provider will confirm the result with a PCR test. If the PCR test comes back positive, we will remove the person’s case from the antigen confirmed cases table and add it to the overall case count posted in the dashboard. And if a person tests negative with a PCR test after a positive antigen test, we do not count them as a COVID-19 case. We will remove the case from the antigen case table.   

If an antigen positive case never receives a PCR test to confirm the antigen positive result, we will keep that case in the table. We plan to keep antigen positives and PCR positives separate for the time being.

Our contact and investigation team reaches out to help people who test positive with an antigen test or PCR test. When a person gets that quick result from an antigen test and it’s positive, it’s critical that he or she isolates because the person has high levels of the virus that causes COVID-19. These are the people most likely to transmit COVID-19 to others.

Last week, the state Department of Health added antigen confirmed COVID-19 cases to its count of people with COVID-19. At this time, we plan to keep separate lists for positive cases confirmed with a PCR test (dashboard) and probable cases and deaths with antigen positives.  Our numbers will be different from the state’s.

As the availability and reliability of antigen testing continues to improve, we may shift our thinking on this and combine these two numbers. But for now, we will keep separate counts for PCR positive and antigen positive cases. Recently, the FDA approved two antigen kits for COVID-19 testing at home. One test is available over-the-counter. A second at-home kit requires a prescription. These test results may not be available to our department and investigators and may not be included in our case totals. We will let you know if this changes.

Keep protecting yourself and others.

COVID-19 transmission is still high in Pierce County. Don’t stop protecting yourself, your family and your neighbors.

Even with vaccinations against COVID-19 beginning in Pierce County, life won’t return to normal for a while. Hang in there. Keep protecting yourself and others. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines at tpchd.org/covid19vaccine.

A COVID-19 test sample