With free COVID home tests coming, what do the results mean?

CHICAGO (WLS) -- With home COVID testing kits about to arrive en masse from the federal government, there's sometimes confusion about what the test results mean.

Dr. Haresh Sawlani at Central Primary Care on the Northwest Side has been seeing patients coming in after testing negative at home.

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"Even if they do it the right way, they are coming back negative and they have the symptoms and then they go out thinking they're negative," he said. "And they think they are safe but they spread it around. And then a few days later when the symptoms get worse they get a PCR test and that comes out positive and by then they are exposing multiple people."

It even happened to the doctor himself at Christmas.

"That came back negative but I had typical symptoms so I did a PCR test which came back positive," Sawlani said.

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That dynamic has called into question the accuracy of testing metrics region-wide, for some, but the Chicago Department of Public Health still welcomes widespread at home testing.

"They're good antigen tests," said CDPH Director Dr. Allison Arwady.

CDPH said this is the third consecutive week where all U.S. states and territories are on the travel advisory, an indication that omicron continues to rage. It's imperative that if an at home test shows positive, you should call your doctor even if you're asymptomatic.

READ MORE: Here's how to take a rapid COVID-19 test accurately at home

"They are positive, they are asymptomatic, they may say, you know, I don't have any symptoms, let's not report it, let's go to work, I need to work and pay my bills," said Sawlani.

Public health officials said they have full confidence that more testing is better even if some of it sometimes isn't as accurate as it could be.

"We don't have to count every test, we can see the patterns," Arwady said.
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