A New Worry Emerges on Coronavirus Tests

Doctors say 1 in 3 infected test subjects may receive false negatives
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 2, 2020 1:45 PM CDT

(Newser) – The good news: Coronavirus testing is expanding as both private labs and government institutions speed up the process. The bad news? The jarring possibility that 1 in 3 infected test subjects are getting false negatives. The stat comes from a Wall Street Journal story in which doctors and health care experts assess the current testing climate. The caveat: "They caution that only limited data is available, and their estimates are based on their own experience in the absence of hard science." Coverage and related developments:

  • Not so great: An exec at the medical group Envision Healthcare tells the Journal that currently available tests have a "sensitivity" of 70%, a measurement of accuracy. What this means is that "nearly one in three positive patients walks away with a reassuring negative result," writes Christopher Weaver. That is a worse mark than is typical for such tests, but the estimate seems legit, says a physician in Kentucky. He and other doctors are learning this first-hand when patients who test negative return with worsening symptoms.

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.