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At-home tests may not be included in the number of COVID cases in Missouri. Here's how to report results.

"That's really, I think, more of the scary piece is that this is just the people that we know," Dr. Alex Garza said.

ST. LOUIS — There are more COVID-19 patients in St. Louis area hospitals right now than at any point during the pandemic.

On Tuesday, the St. Louis Pandemic Task Force reported more than 1,000 COVID-positive people are hospitalized.

High hospitalization rates come as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb. As of Tuesday afternoon, Missouri has reported more than 38,685 confirmed COVID-19 cases in just the past week. 

The number of PCR tests for the past 7 days are 134,430, with an average of 19,204 per day.

According to 5 On Your Side's COVID-19 case count, that's the highest number of new cases on record and the highest number of PCR tests in a week since January 2020. 

"This is just an estimation, but it's probably much worse than that," Dr. Alex Garza with the St. Louis Pandemic Task Force said.

LIST: COVID testing sites in the St. Louis area

That's because at-home tests are probably not being counted.

"I think it's more likely that we have an under-reporting situation for anyone who doesn't call," Brett Siefert, an administrator with Lincoln County Health Department, said. "Then, of course, that's a number that doesn't get counted."

Dr. Garza agrees.

"Probably an undercount as well, so there's probably more people that are infected that we're not capturing. That's really, I think, more of the scary piece is that this is just the people that we know," Dr. Garza explains. 

"It’s safe to assume that most at-home tests are not reported, therefore, those cases aren’t showing up in local and state data," Jefferson County Health Department spokesperson Brianne Zwiener said. "When a positive home test is reported they are only counted as suspect until an investigation occurs, and it can be confirmed that they meet probable-case definition."

Some health agencies, like the Lincoln County Health Department, are urging you to call them to share that positive result.

"Everyone's encouraged to notify the local health department where they live so that our data is as accurate as possible," Siefert shares. 

But for others, like the Franklin County Health Department, said if you test positive at home, they want you to take another step.

"Get a test from a lab that goes to the state lab and gets reported accordingly and then it gets into the system, so that it can be shared and we can see the ebbs and flow of the virus itself," Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker said.

READ ALSO: Your COVID-19 home test is positive: Should you get tested again?

Depending on your local health department, there may be different ways to report.

But the overall emphasis from health officials? Get tested if you need to.

"The other reason that's important is you know those positives are almost always going to have a number of close contacts and those close contacts need to know so that they can monitor their own symptoms," Siefert said.

WHAT LOCAL HEALTH DEPARTMENTS ARE DOING

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said people are asked to contact their local public health agency for reporting and guidance when it comes to at-home testing. 

"Since at-home tests became more available about a year ago, we have had concern that not all users may be reporting in their information which could skew public health surveillance but also miss an opportunity to provide the individual with guidance," Spokeswoman Lisa Cox said, "Results from the kits that can be ordered through the state site are sent to the state regardless since they are processed by a laboratory and laboratories are required to provide us with all COVID test results."

To order a kit through the test site, click here

St. Louis City Department of Health

Spokesperson Harold Bailey said at-home tests should be reported to its COVID hotline to report positive results at 314-657-1499.

The person should report:

  • Name/brand of the test
  • Their symptoms
  • Contact information (name, address, phone number)
  • Household contacts
  • Exposure (date, place, or person)

These positive results shared to the department are included in its reporting.

St. Louis County Health Department

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced a way for residents to submit their positive at-home test results during a COVID-19 briefing Friday.

Reporting is not required. Those interested can report their positive results by emailing dph.submission@stlouiscountymo.gov. Residents without internet access can call 314-615-2660 to report their results.

St. Charles County Public Health Department

If a St. Charles County resident tests positive with an at-home test, a spokesperson said they should call the St. Charles County Public Health Department COVID Hotline at 636-949-1899 to report the results and seek guidance. 

At-home positive tests that are reported to the health department are considered probable, as rapid tests are, and are reported that way on the dashboard on its website. 

The St. Charles County Public Health Department recommend individuals testing positive after a self-test or rapid test follow up with a PCR lab test to confirm the result. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms is advised to stay home and isolate from others until getting a test or until the symptoms subside.

Jefferson County Health Department

"If you test positive on an at-home test, best practice is to follow up with your primary care provider and follow CDC guidance," Public Communications Officer Brianne Zwiener said. "If individuals think they have COVID, but can’t get tested, we recommend they contact their primary care provider to let them know and follow CDC guidance assuming, they are positive."

The county has established an online site where residents can self-report at-home positive results. Visit this website and then click the "COVID Positive Home Test Reporting Form" link. Submitting positive test information is voluntary.

"Additional data helps to provide a more accurate snapshot of cases and county transmission," the county health department said. "At-home test results (both positive and negative) are suspect and NOT counted in our data. By providing the case information asked on the form, our team can determine if a positive home test meets CDC case definition for probable, which then (and only then) would be counted in our numbers.”

Lincoln County Health Department 

If you test positive with an at-home test and you live in Lincoln County, call (636) 528-6117 and dial extension 561. 

Key information that will be requested includes:

  • Date symptoms started (if symptomatic)
  • Date of positive test
  • Dates of COVID-19 vaccination (if vaccinated)

The department does include at-home tests reported into its data. 

Franklin County Health Department

Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker said if an individual tests positive at home, they are advised to get another clinical lab test performed to confirm or go to a medical provider to do so.  

"That statistical information can be entered into the state department of health records system accordingly for virus tracking purposes," he adds. 

St. Clair County Health Department in Illinois

If you test positive, Director of the St. Clair County Emergency Management Herb Simmons said to contact your medical provider. 

He said they will repeat that test with a certified lab and that’s how they get those numbers into its account.

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