Your COVID-19 results could be skewed based on the type of test used


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — There is a lot of anticipation for the big matchup on Saturday between No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia.

But there is still uncertainty surrounding Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban’s role in the game. The question is whether he will be on the sidelines and that all depends on his test results.    

“The test [can] come back as positive but, truly, they are not infected with COVID-19,” said Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. David Hicks.

It’s what’s known as a false positive and according to Hicks, it’s more common with some tests than others.

“There are different levels of accuracy with the different types of tests. The PCR test, that’s the one where we do the nasal swab. It’ll take a day or two to get the test results back. That one’s pretty accurate. Basically, we consider it a gold standard of tests,” Hicks said.

Yet, Hicks says, most recently, he’s seen manufacturing companies turn to rapid tests. He says the first of these were not very accurate but they’ve since improved.

“When you talk about how does that impact results? They have to look at the test results, how they obtained the specimen and, also, if you have symptoms or not,” Hicks said.

Hicks says whoever orders or performs the test must understand its limitations. instance, he says the first version of the rapid test should only be used for symptomatic patients. If not, Hicks says there’s a chance you could get a false positive result.

According to a release from the University of Alabama’s team doctor, which reads “a PCR test was repeated Thursday,” it appears as though all of Saban’s tests were “the gold standard” kind. It’s something doctors would need to know for sure before judging the legitimacy of the results.

“That’s some of the questions that I think need to be asked. If any of us get a test, you want to have confidence in the result but it has to be done appropriately,” Hicks said.

All Saban needs, now, is one more negative test. That would make three negative tests, all 24 hours apart. According to SEC protocol, that would make the first positive test an official false positive.


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