Misleading CDC Report on COVID-19 Testing Combines “Apples and Elephants”

Misleading CDC Report on COVID-19 Testing Combines “Apples and Elephants”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledged last week that it had lumped genetic tests that identify people with current COVID-19 infections together with serology (blood) antibody tests that measure whether someone has had the viral infection in the past.1 Combining the tally of the two tests overstates the country’s ability to test people who are currently sick with COVID-19 and provides an inaccurate picture of the state of the pandemic.2

Ashish Jha, director of Harvard’s Global Health Institute said such errors render the CDC numbers about how many Americans are currently infected with COVID-19 as “uninterpretable,” creating a misleading picture for people trying to make decisions based on the data.

William Hanage, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health explained:3

It is incumbent on health departments and the CDC to make sure they’re presenting information that’s accurate. And if they can’t get it, then don’t show the data at all. Faulty data is much, much worse than no date. Combining a test that is designed to detect current infection with a test that detects infection at some point in the past is just really confusing and muddies the water.4

According to most public health professionals following the pandemic, viral test results that detect current or past COVID-19 infections should be reported separately. Making this distinction helps health officials understand how many people currently are actively infected, the percentage of people testing positive, and how those numbers change over time, which affects the setting of public health policy.5

The CDC obtains COVID-19 testing data from several sources, including state public health labs, commercial testing companies and hospitals.6 Several states are also blending data from the two tests in the same way, including Pennsylvania, Texas, Georgia and Vermont. Virginia and Maine also mixed their test results but changed their practice after several publications reported the inadvisability of mixing of the viral infection and antibody tests.7

Combining statistics for antibody testing with statistics for diagnostic testing of current infections could have the effect of reducing the number of tests that appear to be producing positive results, lowering the overall “positivity rate.” The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended an infection positivity rate of 10 percent or less as a signal of whether enough testing is taking place in a population. “I suspect [combining the two tests] will artificially lower the percent positive,” says Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.8 The White House’s guidelines say that for a state to reopen it must observe a downward trajectory in its number of daily cases or its percentage of positive cases.9

Adequate testing for current infections has been cited repeatedly as a key to safely reopening the economy, so the lack of clarity around how tests are counted raises questions about the true percentage of people with active infections. The American Medical Association said recently that antibody tests should only be used for research and deciding which patients can donate plasma, and not as a determination of natural herd immunity or a reason to lessen social distancing.10

COVID-19 testing capacity to determine the numbers of current infections in the U.S. has more than doubled over the past month, increasing from about 147,000 tests a day in mid-April to more than 413,000 tests a day as of May 20. Simultaneously, the proportion of positive tests recorded each week fell from 10 percent to six percent of total tests conducted. Both trends appear encouraging at face value, but given that results of tests for current infections and antibody tests for past infections are sometimes being lumped together, it’s impossible to know whether the data accurately reflects the reality of how many people in America are currently infected with COVID-19 or have recovered from past infections and have antibodies that give them protection.11


References:

1 Stein R. Scientists Warn CDC Testing Data Could Create Misleading Picture Of Pandemic. NPR May 21, 2020.
2 Madrigal AC, Meyer, R. How Could the CDC Make That Mistake? The Atlantic May 21, 2020.
3 Smith MR. CDC, states’ reporting of virus test data causes confusion. Associated Press May 24, 2020.
4 Lanese N. The CDC is lumping positive COVID-19 viral and antibody tests together: Here’s why that’s bad. Fox May 26, 2020.
5 See Footnote 3.
6 See Footnote 1.
7 See Footnote 2.
8 See Footnote 1.
9 Johnson M. CDC acknowledges mixing up coronavirus testing data. MSN May 22, 2020.
10 Lee J. CDC faces more coronavirus testing questions, this time about how many diagnostic tests are being conducted. Barron’s on Market Watch May 23, 2020.
11 See Footnote 2.
12 See  Footnote 4.

5 Responses to "Misleading CDC Report on COVID-19 Testing Combines “Apples and Elephants”"

  1. Douglas Zork   June 1, 2020 at 11:56 pm

    The publisher NVIC intends this publication to promote “An enlightened conversation about vaccination, health and autonomy.”

    Does the author intend the glaring irony of writing an article dealing with population infection rate and infection fatality rate, “data” which affect the setting of public health policy, when this article omits discussion of the uncertainty and lack of data supporting the definition of the disease syndrome labeled “COVID 19”, the lack of firm causal association of the alleged disease “COVID 19” with an alleged group of corona virus strains labeled “SARS-CoV-2”, the variable specificity of the RT-PCR tests for the alleged infectious agents in “COVID 19”, the variable specificity of the antibody tests for antibodies to the alleged infectious agents, the lack of data proving the positive RT-PCR test result is associated with the alleged “COVID 19” disease, and the world-wide arbitrary assignment of “COVID 19” as cause of death on death certificates!

    This article creates an illusion of solid scientific ground for discussing whether lumping RT-PCR testing numbers and positive rates with antibody testing numbers and positive rates.

    The question posed and answered by this article is hardly meaningful in light of all the uncertainty inherent in the epidemiological statistics of COVID 19 from bottom to top.

    Never lose sight of the vaporous quality of the COVID 19 “pandemic”.

    Reply
  2. Douglas Zork   June 2, 2020 at 12:23 am

    Does the author intend the glaring irony of writing an article dealing with population infection rate and infection fatality rate, “data” which affect the setting of public health policy, when this article omits discussion of the uncertainty and lack of data supporting the definition of the disease syndrome labeled “COVID 19”, the lack of firm causal association of the alleged disease “COVID 19” with an alleged group of corona virus strains labeled “SARS-CoV-2”, the variable specificity of the RT-PCR tests for the alleged infectious agents in “COVID 19”, the variable specificity of the antibody tests for antibodies to the alleged infectious agents, the lack of data proving the RT-PCR test or antibody test positive result is associated with the alleged “COVID 19” disease, and the world-wide arbitrary assignment of “COVID 19” as cause of death on death certificates!

    This article creates an illusion of solid scientific ground for discussing whether lumping RT-PCR testing numbers and positive rates with antibody testing numbers and positive rates may be misleading.

    The question posed and answered by this article is hardly meaningful in light of all the uncertainty inherent in the epidemiological statistics of COVID 19 from bottom to top.

    Never lose sight of the vaporous quality of the COVID 19 “pandemic”.

    Reply
  3. nathalie   June 2, 2020 at 10:09 am

    Based on this and the other articles on similar subjects, one cannot help to wonder what was the overall plan here? Even if you do not want to fall into conspiracy theory, all of this really smells very fishy. We ruin the economy, place millions in precarious conditions and all for what? dollars in the pocket of some people?! where will they get the money from if nothing exists any longer and people can barely buy food and pay for a roof over their heads. I am not an economist and do not want to get into discussion in politics, but no matter what the motivation was here, it really does not ultimately make any sense.

    Reply
  4. Brian James   June 2, 2020 at 12:01 pm

    Would anyone expect anything else from Bill Gates WHO? Not myself.

    MAY 28, 2020 New Research Study Clarifies Health Outcomes in Vaccinated versus Unvaccinated Children

    Unvaccinated children are less likely to be diagnosed with developmental delays, asthma, and ear infections.

    https://childrenshealthdefense.org/news/new-research-study-clarifies-health-outcomes-in-vaccinated-versus-unvaccinated-children/

    Reply
  5. Janelle   June 2, 2020 at 12:40 pm

    The Seedy Sea is combining the data from the two tests because in 1985 a positive test for antibody was changed from having been exposed with resultant successful immune remediation to being infected with. [It’s been noted numerous times how those testing positive for antibodies are then given the ‘solution,’ most recently how a group of children testing positive in NY for the big C were then given the roll up your sleevers (no info on exactly which one was given as we don’t have one currently.)] It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce the vase benefits this enacted change would bring to specific parties.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.