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Do weekly COVID case counts accurately represent spread in the community?

With the accessibility of at-home rapid tests, many positive cases are not being reported to the Ohio Department of Health.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — COVID cases and hospitalizations are on the rise in Ohio

Across the country, the highly contagious BA.5 subvariant now accounts for 78% of all covid infections in the United States. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says we're averaging more than 120,000 cases a day, but the actual number is expected to be much higher.

Are those case numbers still an accurate representation of COVID in our community?

10TV took that question to Dr. Mahdee Sobhanie, an infectious disease specialist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

“You know, I think one of the things that has changed is that we definitely have these home tests that are available. And not everybody is reporting the results of their home tests, whether it's positive or negative,” he said.

Dr. Sobhanie explained even if the weekly case counts don't account for every single positive case, it's still a useful tool to monitor the spread of the virus and any trends.

“It's going to be a continued task of seeing what the case numbers are, see if there's any mutation that has occurred, making sure that the antibodies that we can give patients still work, and also making sure that the vaccines still work.”

It's information health leaders and families can monitor alike, to determine how safe it is to do certain activities, based on your risk for severe illness.

“I worry about patients who are pregnant, I worry about our patients who have cancers, who have transplants,” he said.

Dr. Sobhanie said factors to watch for are: hospitalizations and transmission levels

"Transmission essentially accounts for positive tests, how many positive tests are there, based on a population in that area," Dr. Sobhanie said.

This, as wastewater samples continue to be collected and tested for the virus.

RELATED: When will the next COVID wave hit? Scientists are monitoring our wastewater as a possible indicator

“Wastewater is definitely another tool that we can use to look at and see how much COVID is in there in the community,” he said.

You can see the data on the CDC's wastewater metric map here.

COVID-19 in Ohio: Recent Coverage ⬇️

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