Why some don't want to confirm their COVID-19 diagnosis

Some physicians say they're seeing more patients who want to avoid polymerase chain reaction testing for COVID-19 out of fear of the potential disruptions it could cause to their livelihoods, NPR reported Feb. 1. 

Lab-based PCR tests are reported to health officials, while the results of at-home rapid tests are not. And with at-home test kits hard to come by, some people worry about the implications a positive lab result could have on their lives. 

"It's easy to take a moral stand and say, 'You should always do the right thing,'" Cristina San Martin told NPR. "But if I knew that my job was on the line, I don't know if I would've gotten tested, because anyone could say, 'Oh, this is a cold,' or 'I just have the flu,'" said San Martin, who identifies as nonbinary. The dog grooming salon where San Martin worked fired them after they received a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis, they told NPR

Similar concerns are behind the reason many patients opt for rapid tests, Shantanu Nundy, MD, who treats mostly low-income patients at a federally funded clinic in Arlington, Va., told NPR

The physician said many of his patients ask: "Hey, can you test me? But can you test me, you know, [with] the rapid tests so that it's not part of my record?"

Dr. Nundy continued, "The patients and families who are the most marginalized people — who don't have steady employment, receive benefits, have limited child care and home support — are those who are most likely to not test, and who are probably the ones who we need to test the most" because they're also the most exposed to the virus, he told the news outlet. 

The rise of at-home testing alters how well the virus can be tracked, said Hugh Gusterson, an anthropologist who teaches the culture of science at the University of British Columbia and George Washington University. 

Essentially, the true number of COVID-19 cases will be harder to measure as more people make their own decisions about whether to report their results, Mr. Gusterson said.


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