The ever-increasing availability of virtual platforms could make this transition easier for some, said Dr. Mazer. But for people whose work can only be done personally or who lack a financial buffer, “this could be a big deal,” he said. “You could lose your paycheck. You could lose your job. “
Caregivers could also find themselves in a precarious position due to false alarms, which could force them to separate from children, older family members or other vulnerable contacts. Should another person step in and take their place, the risk of exposure to the virus could increase for everyone involved.
And for facilities with limited space, placing a person in unnecessary isolation could move equipment, medical care, and even follow-up testing away from someone who may need those resources more.
Under certain circumstances, a false positive can trigger new coronavirus cases. Overcrowded facilities like nursing homes, prisons or hospitals can isolate coronavirus-positive people together.
In the worst case, “we could send someone to their death if someone is not really positive,” said Dr. Valerie Fitzhugh, a pathologist at Rutgers University.
In early October, Nevada officials ordered state nursing homes to Stop using two quick coronavirus tests until further notice, citing accuracy concerns. (Almost 40 percent According to an analysis by the New York Times, the country’s known Covid-19 deaths are from nursing homes.) According to the policy, a rash of false positives had been uncovered that carries the risk of placing uninfected residents in units with infected people that gives the coronavirus more opportunity to spread. Such a scenario “could lead to harm being done to a population that we have worked so hard together to protect,” officials stated in a subsequent directive. Under pressure from the federal government, Nevada officials lifted the rapid test ban on October 9th.
Missed or Inappropriate Treatment
False positives can also be catastrophic from a treatment perspective, said Linoj Samuel, clinical microbiologist at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. For example, people with the flu or Covid-19 often show similar symptoms, but can only be tested for one of them at a time. If a patient is misdiagnosed with Covid-19, that person can be deprived of treatment that could alleviate their illness or receive costly therapy that does little to speed their recovery.