New Mexico health officials debunk claims that COVID-19 tests inflate case numbers | KOB 4

New Mexico health officials debunk claims that COVID-19 tests inflate case numbers

Tommy Lopez
Created: December 07, 2020 10:18 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Health officials around the country are taking a closer look at a specific aspect of COVID-19 testing known as the “cycle threshold”.

The cycle threshold relates to how sensitive a standard COVID test is and is important because it can tell how likely it is for someone with a positive result to spread the virus. 

Tests can use different cycle threshold values, but most health experts said values between 30 and 35 work best. Tests with higher values can detect smaller amounts of the virus, which means some people who are infected and whose tests will correctly show up as positive could have a low chance of giving the virus to someone else. 

In some states, COVID test threshold values go up to 40. KOB 4 learned that most labs in New Mexico go below 29.

According to the New Mexico Department of Health, a spokesperson said, "The vast majority of samples run by the NMDOH state lab have a cycle threshold below 29."

There have been claims in some state, like Florida, that tests with higher threshold values lead to false positives and inflate COVID case numbers. However, health experts said that claim is false. 

The case numbers track exactly that—the number of people who have been infected. 

A spokesperson for NMDOH added:

"NMDOH scientists emphasize that, in addition to there being no indication of a prevalence of 'false-positives' of samples run at a cycle threshold over 30, best epidemiological practices to contain potential viral infection require not arbitrarily declaring a person 'non-infectious' because of a higher cycle threshold."

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