What is the difference between PCR, Antigen and Antibody testing?
PCR testing is used to detect a virus itself in the nose, throat or other areas of the respiratory tract to determine if there is an active infection. Antigen testing also looks for an active infection, but there is a higher probability for false negatives when compared to PCR testing. Antibody testing looks for antibodies to determine if there has been an infection in the past. Antibody testing is not recognized in county or state positive numbers.
As of 9/18/2020, antigen testing (rapid testing) is included in total and active county numbers. Please see the updated press release here: https://mcphd-tx.org/wp-content/uploads/antigen-press-release-9.18.2020.pdf.
For a full explanation, download the PDF available at this link: PCR vs Antigen vs Antibody Testing
In your online reporting, the graph doesn’t reflect the large spike on 7/15/2020. Why?
In releases prior to July 16, the data in the graph was based on when contact was made with a case. As case reports increased, the time between receipt of the report and contact with the case also increased. In an effort to give you all the most accurate representation of COVID-19 in Montgomery County, starting on 7/16/2020, we revised the graph to reflect the date a case was reported to MCPHD. This allows us to show an accurate curve of COVID-19 – based on when positive cases were reported. We hope you all understand why this change was necessary.
Also, please note as of 7/16/2020, positive cases that have been “unable to contact” for more than 30 days will be considered “inactive.” This also allows for a more accurate reflection of active cases in our community.
In your online reporting, there is a blue graphic that shows a lot of numbers regarding COVID-19. How are these numbers calculated?
Active Cases – the number of positive tests minus those who have recovered, those who have died, and those we have been unable to contact for more than 30 days.
Hospitalized – the number of Montgomery County residents who are in a hospital, regardless of where that hospital is located. These numbers are dependent on hospitals reporting the data accurately to MCPHD and if we have been able to contact the patient or an emergency contact for the patient.
Self-Isolation – the number of Montgomery County residents who have been contacted by MCPHD (contact investigation complete), and they are self-isolating due to testing positive for COVID-19. Residents who have tested positive but have not yet been contacted by MCPHD will not be included in this number. Please note, healthcare providers contact all people who have been tested upon a positive result.
Recovered – the number of Montgomery County residents whose symptoms have been assessed over the phone by an employee of MCPHD and determined to be recovered based on clinical guidelines from the CDC. You can find those guidelines in the answer of a question below or at this link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/disposition-in-home-patients.html.
Deaths – the number of deaths related to COVID-19 in Montgomery County. These deaths are reviewed by MCPHD prior to release to ensure they are related to COVID-19.
Total Cases – this number is the total number of positive COVID-19 tests reported to MCPHD by healthcare providers. Regardless of whether a person has already recovered or has died by the time it is reported, it is still counted in the total of positive cases, although it is counted as “inactive.” A positive result is a positive result, regardless of the person’s current status.
Key Changes – this is a section meant to show the increase or decrease in the numbers from day to day. The change indicated is over 24 hours unless it is a Monday, then the change is indicated from the previous Friday.
In your online reporting, there is a red graphic that has different hospitalization numbers – what does that mean?
This graphic shows the number of patients hospitalized in Montgomery County, regardless of their county of residence. It includes both county and non-county residents. The hospitals in our region report this information to SETRAC (Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council).
What caused a huge spike in Montgomery County numbers on 7/15/2020?
Starting 7/15/2020, instead of reporting cases after a contact investigation is launched, we will now be reporting all cases received, even before our investigation begins. When cases are first reported to Public Health, we may not have information usually gained during a contact investigation – sex or status. We will only have preliminary information we receive from individual healthcare providers on the laboratory report – age and address. Sex and status will be filled in once a contact investigation is initiated. Please note, residents are notified by their healthcare providers upon a positive result.
We appreciate your understanding during this unprecedented time as we evolve our processes to meet increased demand.
When can someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 return to work?
(revised with new CDC guidelines released 7/17/2020)
According to the CDC, employers should not require an employee to provide a negative COVID-19 test result or healthcare provider’s note to return to work after testing positive for COVID-19. Employees with COVID-19 who have stayed home can stop home isolation and return to work after a clinical recovery – 24 hours with no fever (without fever-reducing medications) AND 10 days past symptom onset. Find all the details here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/disposition-in-home-patients.html.
When is someone considered “recovered” from COVID-19?
(revised with new CDC guidelines released 7/17/2020)
Persons with COVID-19 who have symptoms and were directed to care for themselves at home may discontinue isolation under the following conditions:
- At least 24 hours have passed since recovery defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and
- Improvement in symptoms; and,
- At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
Persons with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 who have not had any symptoms may discontinue isolation when at least 10 days have passed since the date of their first positive COVID-19 diagnostic test and have had no subsequent illness provided they remain asymptomatic. For 3 days following discontinuation of isolation, these persons should continue to limit contact (stay 6 feet away from others) and limit potential of dispersal of respiratory secretions by wearing a covering for their nose and mouth whenever they are in settings where other persons are present. In community settings, this covering may be a barrier mask, such as a bandana, scarf, or cloth mask. The covering does not refer to a medical mask or respirator.
For more information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/disposition-in-home-patients.html.
Why aren’t you sharing more information regarding the patients?
MCPHD is bound by HIPAA regulations. HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) aims to protect a person’s Protected Health Information (PHI). In layman’s terms, we are bound by federal law to protect the identity of a person, even in the case of a public health emergency. Giving too much information (exact age, neighborhood, schools in which children attend, employer, etc.), leads to a person’s identity being revealed which is a gross violation of their privacy. This is where the Public Health team of epidemiologists come into play. They are working with patients to obtain a list of close contacts (contact investigation) who may have contracted the virus. They get information on where they’ve been, where their kids attend school, etc. People who our team believes is at risk are contacted directly. If you are a member of the public and you have not been contacted by the Public Health team, we believe your risk is low. According to the CDC, COVID-19 is not airborne. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid public places. Practice social distancing. Stay home if you are sick. Wash your hands. Avoid touching your face. All these precautions are proven to prevent infection.
Why don’t you just test everyone?
Testing is now available for anyone who would like to be tested, regardless of symptoms. Please contact the MCHD/MCPHD Call Center at 936-523-5040 for more information on our voucher system.
How many people are being tested?
When we first began testing for COVID-19, all the tests for Montgomery County were being sent to one lab which is in the City of Houston. Since last Monday, March 9th, private labs began performing testing. In most cases, MCPHD is only notified of a conclusive result. You can find these numbers on The Department of State Health Services website.
Where can I be tested for COVID-19?
If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, please call ahead to your primary care physician or urgent care for further instructions. Your healthcare provider will screen you for symptoms and recommend you for testing if necessary. If you need help finding a testing site, please call the MCPHD Hotline at 936-523-5040. Each Montgomery County resident is eligible for one test via the MCHD/MCPHD voucher program. You can also sign up for a voucher online at either mchd-tx.org or mcphd-tx.org – click on “Need testing?” and fill out the information needed.
When will there be enough tests for everyone who needs to be tested?
We now have enough tests through our voucher program for Montgomery County residents.
I was tested last week. Why haven’t I received my results?
By law, providers (hospitals, physicians, etc.) are only required to notify Public Health of POSITIVE results. As with any other medical test, you should receive your results (positive or negative) via your healthcare provider where the test was performed. MCPHD will only contact patients upon receiving POSITIVE results. Hospitals in Montgomery County all have patient portals where results are uploaded when they receive them. As a courtesy to the public, here is a list of the patient portals for the four largest hospital systems in Montgomery County where results can be obtained when they are available.
Memorial Hermann Hospital – The Woodlands
EverydayWell – http://www.memorialhermann.org/everydaywell/
HCA Houston Healthcare Conroe (formerly Conroe Regional Hospital)
MyHealthONE – https://hcahoustonhealthcare.com/myhealthone/
CHI St. Luke’s The Woodlands
MyChart – https://mychart.sleh.com/prd/
This site is for access if seen at the following facilities:
- Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center
- Lakeside Hospital
- Springwoods Village Hospital
- Sugar Land Hospital
- The Vintage Hospital
- The Woodlands Hospital
Other regional CHI St. Luke’s facilities – https://www.chistlukeshealth.org/patient-portal-login
Houston Methodist – The Woodlands
Why hasn’t the CDC confirmed the Montgomery County tests yet?
The CDC announced on Monday, March 17th that it would no longer confirm test results. The agency is confident in the accuracy of local testing.
For more information on Coronavirus (COVID-19) click here
The Texas Department of State Health Services novel coronavirus webpage is now live.
Promoting a healthy, resilient community through health education, disease prevention, clinical services and emergency preparedness.
An integrated team that serves, educates and promotes health and resiliency throughout Montgomery County.
Public Health District Programs
The Public Health Clinic provides services in the core public health areas of tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment; provision of childhood and adult immunizations. HIV Testing; screening and treatment of Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Syphilis.
The epidemiology program provides a continuous, scalable response to disease notifications, and coordinates disease surveillance and investigations in Montgomery County. Epidemiology staff members provide ongoing health education to County medical professionals.
Medical Reserve Corps:
The Medical Reserve Corps unit utilizes medical and non-medical volunteers to strengthen Montgomery County’s public health, emergency response and community resiliency. The MRC unit plays a vital role to supplement the community’s existing emergency medical response capabilities and public health infrastructure.
The preparedness program supports a coordinated, collaborative health and medical response to local disasters. Through planning, training and exercises, preparedness staff members lead the community in preventing, preparing for, and responding to public health emergencies.
Do you need health care assistance? Visit the Indigent Care – Health Care Assistance Program (HCAP) website for more information.
Source: cdc.gov, mctxoem.gov, mchd-tx.org, capetowntravel.com