Texas coronavirus testing totals include some antibody tests

FILE - In this Monday, April 20, 2020 filer, a woman gets a blood-test taken by medical personnel at a converted gym, in Cisliano, near Milan, Italy. Italys virus reopening phase was supposed to have been accompanied by a series of measures to limit infections in the onetime European epicenter of the pandemic: the distribution of millions of cheap surgical masks to pharmacies and tobacco shops nationwide, a pilot project of 150,000 antibody tests and, eventually, the roll-out of a contact-tracing app.  (Claudio Furlan/LaPresse via AP, File)
FILE - In this Monday, April 20, 2020 filer, a woman gets a blood-test taken by medical personnel at a converted gym, in Cisliano, near Milan, Italy. Italys virus reopening phase was supposed to have been accompanied by a series of measures to limit infections in the onetime European epicenter of the pandemic: the distribution of millions of cheap surgical masks to pharmacies and tobacco shops nationwide, a pilot project of 150,000 antibody tests and, eventually, the roll-out of a contact-tracing app. (Claudio Furlan/LaPresse via AP, File) (LaPresse)

The number of coronavirus tests administered in Texas includes an unknown number of antibody tests, according to information provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services to The Texas Tribune.

“Some antibody results are included in our current testing totals and case counts,” Lara M. Anton, a press officer for the DSHS, said on Thursday.

Antibody tests can detect whether a person previously recovered from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. But the state reports do not differentiate those figures from standard nasal swab tests, so it’s impossible to know how many tests show active infections and how many show previous infections. Anton said the agency is working to provide details on how many of these tests are included in the data.

“Certainly that data should be made public on their website, given how people are using it,” Rebecca Fischer, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, told The Texas Observer. “It would change our whole understanding of when infection events were happening in the community, and that would be really important to know and be reported in the data.”

The state has been struggling to reach the goal that Gov. Greg Abbott set on April 27 of doing 25,000 daily tests by May. By Friday, the threshold had only been achieved three times. The state reported nearly 50,000 tests Wednesday, a record high.

“We don’t attribute the large increase in results received [Wednesday] to antibody tests,” Anton said. As of Saturday, the state has administered 678,471 tests since early March. — Juan Pablo Garnham