SAN ANTONIO – It seems that misinformation about COVID-19 is spreading on social media almost as fast as the virus itself.
As COVID-19 cases surge in Bexar County and around Texas, some are questioning how the cases are counted by state and local health departments.
On social media and other commenting forums, there is speculation that Texas counties, including Bexar, are including entire households in their daily COVID-19 reporting, even if only one household member tested positive.
We ran this claim through our Trust Index and determined it’s not true.
We reached out to San Antonio Metropolitan Health District officials for clarification. A spokesperson for the local health department said they are not counting entire households of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Instead, the “total case counts include both confirmed cases (cases confirmed with RT PCR test) and probable cases which are primarily symptomatic individuals with a positive antigen test,” said Michelle Vigil, director of public relations for Metro Health, in a statement to KSAT.
For more than a month, counties in Texas have been including probable cases in their COVID-19 counts. That’s based on the recommendation from the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Prior to the new guidance, county and state numbers included just confirmed cases based upon laboratory test results.
A probable case is now defined as a person who has not yet had a positive PCR (Polymerase chain reaction) test for COVID-19, but who meets two of the following three criteria:
- A positive quick-result antigen test
- Experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
- Close contact with a confirmed positive COVID-19 case
While some counties differentiate confirmed cases from probable cases, Metro Health provides a combined total.
Also fueling the fire on rumors speculating inflated COVID-19 numbers is an acknowledgment from the Centers for Disease Control that results from viral and antibody tests had been mixed together on its website.
Regarding that mixed reporting, CDC spokesperson Kristen Nordlund told CNN, “Initially, when CDC launched its website and its laboratory test reporting, viral testing (tests for current infection) were far more commonly used nationwide than serology testing (tests for past infection). Now that serology testing is more widely available, CDC is working to differentiate those tests from the viral tests and will report this information, differentiated by test type, publicly on our COVID Data Tracker website.”
Texas health officials now separate viral test results from antibody test results. You can find those updated numbers here, but the antibody numbers don’t include any testing in Bexar County. Bexar County officials say they do not keep track of antibody test numbers and are not required to report them to the state at this time.