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VERIFY: Multiple COVID-19 tests by same person do not inflate case count

NC DHHS, CDC and Lab Corp affirm no matter how many COVID tests a person takes, the infection counts as only one case.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Every day, WFMY News 2 takes the newest COVID-19 numbers and puts them in context, providing facts to ease fears amid the ongoing pandemic.

Over the last month, tests across North Carolina have fluctuated between 18,000 and 27,000, depending on the day. An average of seven to 10 percent of those cases comes back positive. 

RELATED: COVID-19 Blog | DHHS: Davidson County sees two new outbreaks in coronavirus cases

Credit: WFMY

VERIFY QUESTION

Good Morning Show viewer Cheryl Williams from Elon asked, "How many of these tests are actually by the same person?"

Williams explained she has a friend who received multiple tests, three of which were positive. But, the friend had only one case of the virus. Williams asked if all three tests count as new cases.

Credit: WFMY via Cheryl Williams

The answer, per three credible sources on this information, is no.

VERIFY SOURCES

VERIFY PROCESS

The CDC explains, on its "testing" page, the number of positive tests in a state does not equal the number of positive cases, because a person might be tested more than once. As of Wednesday, July 22, the CDC reported more than 4.6 million positive tests nationwide but only 3.8 million positive cases. That means nearly one million tests were repeat tests from the same people.

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NC DHHS communications representative Kelly Conner explained that is why North Carolina counts a positive case only once.

"If a person tested positive more than once (for example, if they were using the test-based criteria for discontinuation of isolation and had 3 total positive tests), they would be included in our case count only once," Connor said.

LabCorp communications representative Kelly Aceituno explained LabCorp, which tests suspected COVID-19 samples, counts each test but is clear in reporting about the case.

"We would report each of those tests separately, as they are done at different times on different specimens. That would apply to both the report back to the healthcare provider who ordered each test, and our reporting to public health agencies."

However, she noted, "If a healthcare provider was looking at that patient’s record of tests (or the patient looking at his/her results in the LabCorp Patient portal), each test and result would be listed separately."

VERIFY CONCLUSION

All COVID-positive tests are reflected in the North Carolina and U.S. testing numbers, but repeat tests by the same person count as only one case.

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