Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine may have a difficult time closing the can of worms opened by his Covid-19 testing ordeal.
The Governor’s experience has made Ohioans more aware than ever that their freedoms, livelihoods and lives are very likely being based on faulty testing.
DeWine tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday afternoon after taking a rapid-response antigen test. A few hours later, he tested negative on two follow-up PCR Covid-19 tests.
Still, the Governor said he wants Ohioans to trust in the reliability of Covid-19 testing.
“I think what people should not take away from my experience (is) that testing is not reliable or doesn’t work,” DeWine told CNN’s Dana Bash on State of the Union on Saturday.
DeWine said the antigen tests are fairly new and the companies coming out with them have the burden of “showing how good they are.”
This downplays what CNN previously reported, that the ability of an antigen test to identify someone with Covid-19 ranges between 34% and 80% in accuracy, according to the World Health Organization.
DeWine spoke highly of Covid-19 PCR tests, calling them “very, very, very reliable.”
Contrary to DeWine’s claim, PCR tests are also prone to false positive results, say scientists. More on that below.
DeWine doesn’t seem to grasp that a false-positive result for the average Ohioan means major life disruptions.
Unlike DeWine, who had almost immediate access to follow-up testing, Ohioans do not.
The turnaround time for a PCR test is between 48 hours and seven days, according to the Ohio Department of Health website – possibly even longer depending on how busy labs are.
When you receive a positive result, you are reported to the ODH and your county health department.
Per CDC guidelines, you will be instructed by health officials to quarantine for at least 10 days. Anyone living in the same household is ordered to quarantine for 14 days from the date the person with Covid began isolation.
You are then subjected to contact tracing. Anyone you have been in close contact with is notified by health officials that they must quarantine for 14 days.
If you refuse to quarantine after receiving a positive Covid test result, a health department official will likely show up at your doorstep with law enforcement officers and you will be threatened with legal action.
Testing labs report between 2% and 8% of PCR testing can show false positive results.
In addition, there are errors resulting from improper sample handling before the sample ever arrives at the lab.
It was the mishandling of samples that resulted in 19 false positives at an East Ohio nursing facility earlier this year.
“And PCR is so incredibly sensitive, contamination is a particular concern. Even the tiniest amount of stray material in a lab can spell trouble,” said Dr. Bobbi Pritt, a clinical microbiologist who chairs the microbiology committee for the College of American Pathologists.
DeWine admitted that antigen testing has room for improvement.
“Could they be used in some situations? Yeh, they could be, but you have to understand going in that you can get the false positive, like happened in my case, or you can get the false negatives,” said DeWine.
Despite being aware of this, DeWine recently agreed to purchase 500,000 additional antigen tests for use in Ohio anyway, as was reported on August 4.
Maryland, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Virginia and Ohio formed an interstate compact with The Rockefeller Foundation to ramp up the use of rapid antigen tests in schools, workplaces and nursing homes.
“Time is of the essence, which is why I am pleased to join with my fellow governors to work together to expand the use of rapid, point-of-care antigen tests in order to help to slow the spread of Covid-19 in our states,” said Governor DeWine.