Positive antigen tests will be reported as ‘probable’ COVID cases as of Sept. 8

Always Investigating

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii’s coronavirus test numbers are about to jump as of tomorrow. The Hawaii Department of Health tells KHON2 it will start including antigen results in its data reports.

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This is a significant change, because up until now, only PCR tests have been reported in the official daily numbers. PCRs detect genetic material from the virus.

But many clinics and agencies have been conducting rapid antigen tests along with PCRs, to give people an early sign of what the PCR result might be, or to prescreen for potential positives before conducting a PCR. Antigen tests give results back within 15 minutes. These tests detect fragments of proteins.

Both PCR and antigen tests detect active infections, though the PCR test is still considered by many to be the most accurate as well as the more invasive of the two tests in terms of how deep the PCR swab needs to go to collect a specimen.

The health department told KHON2: “A positive EUA-approved rapid antigen test without confirmatory PCR testing would meet CSTE case definition criteria for a probable case. We are reviewing and will begin reporting probable cases as of Sept. 8.”

Antigen tests are not to be confused with antibody tests. Antibody tests only find if you’ve already had COVID, not if you are presently infected.

Currently “positive” and “presumptive” tests are reported in the daily DOH numbers. KHON2 asked the health department if the new “probable” results will have their own category and are awaiting the answer.

KHON2 also asked the health department how they prevent duplication of results from people who receive multiple tests.

“Daily positive case numbers are based on unique individuals tested with PCR test by clinical labs and the State Laboratories Division,” DOH told KHON2. “The numbers are de-duplicated by the following variables: test result (positive, negative, and inconclusive), specimen collection date, lab test result date, and lab test facilities. If a person’s final test result is positive (or negative), the first positive (or negative) lab test result is captured.”

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