At a recent lecture for the National Academy of Medicine, Nuzzo from Johns Hopkins predicted omicron cases would decline quickly in the U.S. — but not as fast as what has been seen in other countries.
That’s because multiple studies have shown that the coronavirus tends to spread in social clusters, rather than steadily moving through a population. So as businesses reopen and states like New Jersey drop mask mandates in schools, the virus may find new opportunities to jump between pockets of people — extending the duration of the current wave.
Thanks to vaccination and the widespread abundance of immunity, most people will be spared severe consequences. But a slow burn of cases, hospitalizations and deaths could simmer and thrive in at-risk communities, causing tens of thousands of deaths.
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While Nuzzo supports at-home tests, she said now is a precarious time to develop blindspots in official case reporting.
“We want to understand who [these new cases] are and if the cases are occurring in a different demographic group than what we would typically expect,” she said.
Such reasoning explains why Tompkins County opted to start recording at-home test results in late December.
“It’s just something that we’re doing to be able to have an idea of what’s going on with home tests and our community,” said Frank Kruppa, Tompkins County public health director and mental health commissioner. “Most importantly, when someone reports a positive test result to us, they get information back on what they should do for their own health around isolation.”
The county has recorded 1,550 positive self-tests since December 24th, while conventional testing documented 5,767 cases. Stated differently, the at-home program detected up to an extra 26% of cases.
New York City officials said it had kept track of some home test results, namely 30,000 positives from the 6.6 million kits that it had handed out to public school students and school staff since January 3rd.
The city admitted that these 30,000 cases had not been included in its COVID counts for schools nor in how it calculates in-school positivity. In fact, officials only know about the at-home outcomes because a positive or negative result dictates when a child or staff can return in person. And similar to Tompkins County, these at-home positives could have added an extra 21% of cases to the tally for New York City schools, which has accumulated 142,000 infections since classes resumed on January 3rd.
But if the city is open to registering some results, why not open it up to the general public?