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News about coronavirus in Florida and around the world is constantly emerging. It's hard to stay on top of it all but Health News Florida and WUSF can help. Our responsibility at WUSF News is to keep you informed, and to help discern what’s important for your family as you make what could be life-saving decisions.

At-home coronavirus tests could skew case totals, but experts say people should still use them

Gloved hand holding up an at-home COVID-19 test
Jernej Furman
Most people likely aren't reporting their at-home test results to health officials, so those positive cases aren't factored into Florida's totals. But at-home tests still offer a convenient way to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus.

People typically don't report positive results from at-home tests to health officials, so Florida's case totals are likely higher than reported.

Many Floridians are using at-home rapid tests to determine if they're infected with the coronavirus, rather than visit a provider in the community.

And as more people do that, it becomes harder for officials to get an accurate count of case totals.

Epidemiologist Jason Salemi, with the University of South Florida's College of Public Health, explains there's no consistent way health officials can collect data about who tests positive with home kits, as many people keep that information to themselves.

But he said that doesn't mean the tests aren't useful. What really matters, Salemi said, is that people have timely and convenient ways to find out if they need to isolate to prevent spreading the virus to others.

"It would be wonderful if we could get these numbers into the official tally every day, but I think that is of secondary importance to making sure people have access to these tests and they can use them to make responsible decisions," he said.

The federal government is sending Americans free at-home tests.

You can order up to four per residence at COVIDtests.gov or call 1-800-232-0233.

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.