Friday, September 22, 2023

State health officials release virus data by test type

The Virginia Department of Health has released coronavirus case data broken down by the type of test used after drawing criticism for the way it was compiling its results.

Officials separated the data into results from diagnostic and antibody tests for the first time on Thursday, according to a statement from the state’s health department. Journalists and experts raised concerns this week that combining the data could impact the assessment of the virus’ spread and the appearance of the state’s testing capacity, news outlets reported.

Diagnostic tests look for traces of the virus in samples gathered from a patient’s nose or throat using swabs, while antibody tests look for blood proteins that indicate whether a patient was previously infected.

Scientists remain divided over antibody tests, citing varying reliability among the many tests that have recently been developed, as well as questions surrounding the degree to which the presence of antibodies ensures future immunity.

Antibody tests made up less than 9 percent of the overall tests recorded in Virginia’s data, the department said in its statement. Officials added that separating those numbers from the total number of positive tests had a “minimal change” on the data and caused “no difference in overall trends.”

Gov. Ralph Northam said Thursday that both diagnostic and antibody test data have been reported “since the beginning of this health crisis.” He said he moved to have the data separated after “recently” finding out that they were being combined.


John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.

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