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Home COVID tests could be skewing positive cases in San Diego County

The number of COVID cases could be higher than reported since people may get a positive at-home COVID test and not report it.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — San Diego County reported Friday that the number of local COVID cases jumped to 45,000 in a week, that's nearly a ten-fold increase in one month.

But because of people self-testing at home, or not testing at all, that number could be underreported.

With at-home antigen COVID kits the County predicts the number of COVID cases could be higher than the 5,700 new infections reported recently, since many people don't report it or don't test at all.

“I had fatigue, loss of appetite, then I had a fever," said Beckie Webster, a Mission Hills hairstylist. 

Webster says she was fully vaccinated and boosted, took an at-home COVID test and tested positive. 

However, she wanted assurance on whether to isolate so she went to Broadwell Health testing site at the Old Town Trolley stop, where they promoted 1-3 day results.

“Here we are 10 days later and we have no results,” said Webster.

Others have reported delays in their test results from the same provider.

Daniel Navarrete with Broadwell Health sent CBS 8 News a statement that said, they’ve seen a sudden 500% increase in testing demand and are working on a quicker turnaround.

Darcey Johnson couldn't find a test when her boyfriend tested positive for COVID at an urgent care. 

She says the doctors there told Darcey she didn’t need a PCR test and could test in a few days.

“For me personally, I was going to isolate regardless and I've been sick for quite a while,” said Johnson.

Others on Twitter tweeted why they didn’t test.

Under CDC guidelines, you don't need to take a PCR test if you test positive at home but recommend isolation.

Though, San Diego County only includes PCR results in their numbers and antigen tests if observed by a medical professional.

“What I think they should do is go tell their doctor,” said Dr. Davey Smith, Chief of Infectious Diseases and Global Health at UC San Diego. “The doctors often do report it, I report it to the county when my patients tell me they are positive. It’s a complicated process but it helps with our overall understanding how much COVID is out there.”

Dr. Smith says regardless of your vaccination status, what type of test, or if you were exposed, you should notify your physician.

“For someone with high-risk conditions and don’t even know they are high risk, their doctor should know there are therapies they may be eligible to get and prevent them from getting in the hospital and dying,” said Dr. Smith.

He says one of the many reasons people may not report having COVID is because they may feel embarrassed.

“There is a lot of stigma that is associated with COVID and it just breaks my heart how much stigma is out there,” said Dr. Smith.

Rady Children's Hospital Director of Infectious Disease, Dr. John Bradley says the same for kids.

“If you are symptomatic, if you are a child with a cold and your child has a positive antigen test that is good enough for the medical community, you don't need to repeat it by PCR,” said Dr. Bradley.

While Webster may not need a PCR to confirm, she says she isolated until her symptoms went away but just wants to know if she got COVID.

“For personal knowledge, I thought I should know,” said Webster.

The CDC recommends if you test positive at home you should isolate, contact those who may have exposed and notify your doctor.

Broadwell Health says it is addressing the testing delays by more than doubling their staffing capacity, engaging additional labs to increase our throughput capacity, and securing a greater stockpile of tests to meet current and future demand.

For those who had results delayed by more than five days they can receive free rapid antigen test starting on Tuesday.

WATCH RELATED: American Indians are 3.3 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 (January 2022)

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