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Kentucky adjusts how it calculates COVID-19 positivity rate

Rate will exclude antibody and rapid testing results.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Starting on Monday, Kentucky will change the way it calculates the COVID-19 positivity rate.

The commonwealth will only use PCR tests that are sent electronically.

Kentucky Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack calls these PCR tests the gold standard.

PCR tests are nasal swab tests that are sent to a lab to be processed.

Dr. Stack says more than nine in 10 tests are already PCR tests – so moving forward they will exclude antibody and rapid testing results from the positivity rate.

Dr. Stack emphasized are four main benefits to moving to using the PCR tests to calculate positivity rate: automated data collection, a more stable data stream, excluding tests outside a seven-day window, and a quick turnaround on testing results.

The median collection-to-result time in September for PCR tests was two days.

Those changes in data collection will be more efficient because reporting is now going completely electronic.

“We don’t want data from two or three months in there. This will automate that process and keep that data stream pure for the purpose it’s intended,” Dr. Stack said.  

Dr. Stack announced the change last week, but Governor Beshear wanted to wait until Monday to make the change to give hospitals and others enough time to prepare.

Another benefit of solely using PCR tests is fewer false negatives. While quick, rapid testing is more likely to produce a false negative than PCR test.