Tens of thousands of Americans reported a COVID-19 test result on the National Institutes of Health website that launched in November.
The site, MakeMyTestCount.org, allows people to anonymously report the results of any brand of home COVID-19 test.
In updated data provided exclusively to ABC News, 24,000 people reported a test result to the site. Additionally, three quarters of the results are a positive test and women were more likely to report a test result than men.
“I think there are more people testing for COVID right now than what’s reported on this website. So it’s just kind of a little raindrop in a huge storm,” said Dr. Sarah Elisabeth Waldman, associate professor. in the division of infectious diseases at UC Davis Medical Center, ABC News told ABC News.
Asked about the discrepancy between female and male reporting levels, “I don’t think it’s specific to COVID. I think it’s more specific to women in general, having higher rates of self-reporting on voluntary websites and other programs,” she added.
Public health experts said it’s great there’s a place where people can import test results and more people are doing it than expected – but questions remain over self-reported data that could give scientists a better idea of where the virus is spreading and who is most affected.
They also warned there could be a bias over who is inclined to report test results.
“Just because we see three out of four reported tests as positive certainly doesn’t mean that three out of four people are actually positive. Probably it means that people are more likely to report a positive result than a negative result,” Andrew Weitz , Ph.D., program director at NIH and co-lead on the project, told ABC News.
But that doesn’t mean reporting home test results isn’t beneficial to health officials. In fact, the more results provided, the clearer their understanding of COVID in the community.
“The absolute numbers may or may not tell the whole story, but what I think the public health community will start to understand better is how trends can help us understand that story,” said Dr. Krishna Juluru, Director of Presidential Innovation. Fellow at NIH and co-lead of the project, told ABC News.
Experts have also urged the public to report the results of their home tests, whether positive or negative, to provide health officials with a better idea of what is happening in the community.
“Without the negatives, we don’t have a good idea of what the overall positivity rate might be, and where we’re seeing real significant increases,” said Matthew Binnicker, Ph.D., director of the clinical virology laboratory. from the Mayo Clinic. , told ABC News. “We need to be able to determine where COVID is most prevalent, where we’re seeing an increase [and] we need to have the total number of tests, including positives and negatives, to really get a good idea of that.”
The NIH is also launching a pilot program in a county in Pennsylvania that will provide free COVID-19 health services entirely virtually. Up to 8,000 eligible residents are expected to participate in the program.
Under this program, a patient with COVID-19 could receive rapid home tests, telehealth sessions and home treatments like Paxlovid without leaving their home.
“It’s largely home-based, but we’re also allowing individuals to have options, so if they want to get tested at a local community centre, after a telehealth consultation if they want to pick up their medication from a local pharmacy, we allow that as well,” Juluru said.
Since antiviral drugs, such as Paxlovid, cannot be taken with other drugs, so patients should meet with a clinician before any therapeutic treatment is sent to their home.
There are plans to expand the program to several more sites throughout the year.
“It’s a pilot program, so we’re kind of doing it in the spirit of learning as much as we can,” Weitz said. One of the main goals of NIH scientists is to “understand what works, what doesn’t, and how can we improve things if there were to be a larger scale rollout of this program,” a- he added.