OU Med doctor, OSDH address rumors and conspiracy theories surrounding COVID-19 testing

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – State health officials are pushing back against rumors on the testing process and the number of positive COVID-19 cases, some Oklahomans insisting the state is trying to inflate the numbers.

As confirmed cases of COVID-19 rise by triple digits each day, more people across the state seem to doubt their accuracy.

One question that has been written or called into News 4 often is, if the same person tests positive for COVID-19 twice, are their positive test results counted additional times as well?

Comments making this assumption have quickly spread across Facebook, one person writing, “A lot of these numbers are retest of people that were already positive that have to re test to go back to work when they are cleared.”

One man who claimed he tested positive twice wrote, “Be at (sic) those two positive counts toward their numbers.”

A spokesperson for the Oklahoma State Department of Health said that isn’t the case stating,

“The Oklahoma State Department of Health reports the number of positive COVID-19 cases as unique individuals, regardless of how many times they have tested positive. If somebody tests positive, recovers, and then tests positive again, that is not counted as a new case. Patients are considered recovered if they are not hospitalized or deceased 14 days after a positive COVID-19 case is reported. A negative re-test result is not required for someone to be considered recovered.”

Dr. Dale Bratzler, OU Medicine enterprise chief quality officer said testing positive more than once is quite common.

“We may end up doing more testing on that individual through the course of their treatment or to prove that they are negative, that they could go back to work,” he said.

Dr. Bratzler addressed another rumor about whether a person found to have COVID-19 antibodies counted among confirmed cases.

“That is not used to make a diagnosis for COVID-19,” he said. “The only patients that get counted as a confirmed case of COVID-19 have to have one of the nasal PCR tests, the genetic tests that detect the virus.”

The OSDH said in a statement,

“The Oklahoma State Department of Health does not combine antibody test results with its regular COVID-19 viral test results.
The two types of tests look for different things, so to combine the results would be misleading and confusing for everyone. A viral test tells you if you have a current infection. An antibody test might tell you if you had a past infection.
We are tracking antibody test results separately.”

Finally, Dr. Bratzler shut down claims that nasal swabs are used to implant chips into patients.

“No we don’t implant anything,” he said. “The swab is a specialized swab that you have to buy from certain companies, that is safe to put back in the nasal pharynx. It will capture the specimen. All we test it for is viral RNA of COVID-19 virus. Nothing else is used of that particular swab.

The doctor said it is distressing how frequently he has seen these rumors and theories frequently on social media.

“It’s sad because we’ve let politics and conspiracies drive behavior rather than science and public health, so that’s very concerning,” Dr. Bratzler said. “It’s just important that we keep getting correct information out there. Nobody’s implanting anything. The DNA is not captured. All we’re looking is viral RNA to look for the COVID-19 virus when we do a nasal swab.”

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