Officials respond to report that Texas isn't counting COVID-19 tests

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Department of State Health Services is responding to reports the state is excluding rapid antigen testing from its reported positive COVID-19 cases and thereby muddying the picture about the pandemic's true impact on Texas.

DSHS spokesperson Chris Van Deusen told ABC13 that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the rapid antigen tests provide "probable" cases of COVID-19 and not positive cases. The state reports positive cases and according to CDC guidelines does not include probable cases in overall positive numbers.

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The nasal swab is molecular polymerase chain reaction test, or PCR. That's what DSHS refers to as the gold standard of testing. Other tests are not proven as accurate as the PCR.

DSHS is working to provide data from antigen testing on its website, much as it did when it began reporting "probable" cases through blood-drawn antibody testing. Those tests, which can reveal if a person may have previously had the virus, are not included in the positive test count.

"The cases that feed into our positive test results, those that we're showing on the website, are those by PCR. It's a test that looks for the virus' genetic material," said Van Deusen.

Testing is evolving with this new strain of the coronavirus. It makes the process of reporting data all the more challenging for state and local officials.

Democrat Congressman Al Green thinks all tests should be included in the numbers. He shared his opinion at a testing site Monday morning, where he took a PCR test.

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"I think we should count all of the tests," said Rep. Green. "I'm disappointed to hear we are not counting these tests. I know of some of these facilities where these rapid tests are taking place and I know of persons who have gone in and they have found that they were positive. That rapid test was a valid test and it has saved lives."

The state said it is not trying to suppress any data but is trying to paint the most accurate picture.

"We always want to share the most accurate and reliable information we can," Van Deusen said. "That's what helps inform our response to the virus and what we know helps inform local officials and individuals as well. People rely on this to make decisions about their families, about what they're doing, about their businesses. And so it's incredibly important."

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