NCDHHS Adds Antigen Test Information to COVID-19 Dashboard

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is adding information about antigen testing to the COVID-19 NC Dashboard, including positive COVID-19 cases and deaths diagnosed with an antigen test and the number of antigen tests completed daily.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires states to report molecular (PCR) and antigen positive cases separately. Regardless of the test used, a person who tests positive is considered to have COVID-19.

Molecular (PCR) and antigen tests are used to diagnose COVID-19, meaning that they look to see if someone is currently infected with COVID-19. Each test looks for something different to determine if someone is infected. A molecular (PCR) test looks for the virus’s genetic material. An antigen test is a rapid test that looks for specific proteins on the surface of the virus. Where the test is processed may also differ. Molecular (PCR) tests are processed in a laboratory. Antigen tests are often processed at the point of care, such as in a health care provider’s office.

The dashboard will provide information for cases, deaths and tests completed by the type of test used. A molecular (PCR) positive case of COVID-19 is a person who received a positive COVID-19 result from a molecular (PCR) test. An antigen positive case of COVID-19 is a person who received a positive COVID-19 result from an antigen test and does not have a positive result from a molecular (PCR) test.  People are only counted as a case once, even if they have multiple positive tests.

NCDHHS is able to add information on antigen testing due to improved reporting processes. Reporting on antigen tests has been challenging, as antigen tests are typically administered at the point of care such as a clinician’s office. To date, there have been far fewer cases diagnosed by antigen tests than by molecular (PCR) tests in North Carolina. However, antigen testing is expanding in various point-of-care settings, such as nursing homes and health care provider offices.

Antigen positive cases make up a small percent (2%) of total COVID-19 cases and deaths (0.7%) in North Carolina, to date. Antigen positive cases and deaths have now been incorporated onto North Carolina’s dashboards, resulting in 4,563 antigen positive cases and 25 deaths being added to the dashboards. NCDHHS has posted an FAQ that explains all data elements on the dashboard that have been updated and provides additional information on antigen and molecular testing.

North Carolina is joining 31 other states now reporting antigen-positive cases in addition to cases identified through a positive molecular (PCR) test result.