Albany Med says COVID tests may not tell whole story

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — New research from Albany Medical Center said a person who tests positive for COVID-19 may not be infectious if they’re not symptomatic.

Dr. Dennis Metzger said nasal swabs are the most popular way to test for the virus. The tests are quick and easy. They also may not tell the whole story.   

“It doesn’t necessarily tell you whether or not there are active virus in the samples you are testing,” Metzger said.  

Because of a New York State mandate, hospital patients who had the virus weren’t able to leave until they tested negative. Metzger said some patients were hospitalized at Albany Med for two months.  

“They didn’t want to be in the hospital. They didn’t show any symptoms, but we couldn’t release them from the hospital because they were still showing positivity,” Metzger said.  

Metzger said most hospitals don’t have what’s called a BSL3 lab. That’s where doctors are able to determine if a sample if still infectious.

“The bottom line is that these patients showed active virus during the first two weeks of their symptoms. But then after that we could no longer detect any active virus,” Metzger said.  

Albany Med called the findings illuminating. The hospital said it could impact how they isolate individuals and when they discharge patients.  

Positive tests impact things like travel and testing mandates. Metzger said government approval is needed to supplement the nasal testing.

“As long as the patients remain positive by the PCR test, they have to remain in the hospital. They don’t want to be in the hospital. We would like to be able to discharge them but we can’t,” Metzger said. 

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