Last Wednesday the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) started publishing a weekly report of positive antigen test results. Antigen tests can provide results in minutes, compared to much longer wait times for most molecular test results. Some antigen testing is already happening across the state, and that will only increase in the coming months, with more than 2 million Abbott BinaxNOW™ tests reportedly on the way from the federal government.
Because rapid antigen tests are on average less accurate than molecular tests, and haven’t been widely studied for people who don’t have symptoms, appropriate use and careful interpretation of the results will be needed, and will add complexity to the way we measure COVID-19 prevalence across the state.
For now, the DOH weekly report will include positive antigen results at the state level only. This report will remain separate from the molecular test results on our DOH dashboard, or on the governor’s Risk Assessment dashboard.
“The goal in publicly reporting antigen test results is to increase transparency not just into our process, but into COVID-19 activity statewide. People across the state need a line of sight into these results as these tests become more popular and accessible, so we can understand emerging trends,” says Lacy Fehrenbach, Deputy Secretary of Health for COVID-19.
“Before we implement a wider application of this tool, we want to make sure we understand how to interpret the results, how to explain these interpretations, and how to use these tests to benefit the public,” says Dr. Charissa Fotinos, statewide testing leader for COVID-19 response.