Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Scam Alert: False positives for COVID-19

| July 15, 2020 12:04 PM

Recent rumors circulating on social media claim that a person planned to get tested for COVID-19, never completed the test because the wait was too long, then received a letter indicating that they had tested positive for the virus.

The stories are presented as an explanation for why COVID-19 cases are rising — but the claims are false, said Kootenai Health. Here are the facts:

• Fact: COVID-19 test results are not sent in the mail by Kootenai Health.

Positive results are communicated to the doctor who ordered the test by phone. The doctor will then call the patient to relay this result. Panhandle Health District may send a certified letter with test results if a person cannot be reached by phone after multiple attempts. This is very rare.

• Fact: Someone who did not have a test performed for COVID-19 would not receive results.

• Fact: The test for COVID-19 virus (not to be confused with antibody testing) is quite accurate. It is much more likely to have a false negative (testing too early or insufficient sample) than a false positive.

• Fact: Medical providers or testing facilities do not “receive more money” for positive test results.

No medical test is 100 percent accurate, Kootenai Health noted. The accuracy depends on the test, how it was collected and the duration of the illness. Additionally, health care workers are human and there is always a chance for human error.

If someone discovers an error at any point in the testing process, it is important for them to inform the organization or people who are involved so they can investigate and improve the process to prevent future errors.

If someone is sharing information about an error in the testing process, they are encouraged to reach out to the testing organization or their physician for help.