We need to talk about testing

It’s safe to say that as the pandemic has gone on, the definition of what a COVID case “is” has changed. As the virus hit, the definition of a “case” was someone who was unwell enough to show up at a hospital with symptoms, prompting a test to confirm that coronavirus was present.

With widespread testing rolled out globally, a “case” is now anyone who has tested positive, despite the fact that they may not be sick at all. On Twitter, the Fat Emperor (a cardio-health guru from Ireland) created this handy visualization, showing the differences between “rapid antigen testing” and the commonly used PCR.

What the data increasingly shows is that PCR testing finds those who are infectious with COVID, but also those who are not. Fragments of old viruses are identified by PCR as a “case” of COVID, even though people in this case are not contagious, nor will they get sick. Could it be that more reported cases lead to more testing and more fear in a self-perpetuating mechanism?