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NY tells Onondaga County to stop tallying at-home tests in its COVID results

Onondaga County Health Department sing, Syracuse, New York, March 30, 2022.
Maxwell Mimaroglu
Onondaga County Health Department sing, Syracuse, New York, March 30, 2022.

As COVID case rates are rising in the local region, Onondaga County's tallying practices may be partially to blame.

First reported by, Onondaga is the only county in the state to include at-home test results when reporting positive cases to the state.

Samantha Fuld, deputy director of public information at New York State Department of Health, said tallying these results has the potential to alter the data.

“Doing so would lead to incomplete reporting. Whereas the Department’s ECLRS reporting includes all COVID-19 tests - both positive and negative - conducted, there is no baseline for receiving at-home tests. This would lead to an uneven sample,” said Fuld.

The agency recently noted on its public COVID-19 Test Tracker site that almost a quarter of Onondaga's positive results from late December through March 30 were from at-home tests. The state has ordered the county to stop sending in at-home tests as lab tests are considered to be more reliable.

“Self-administered, at-home tests are not intended to be reported to the NYSDOH Electronic Clinical Laboratory Reporting System (ECLRS)—the basis of the State’s COVID-19 positive test reporting—as these tests are conducted by individuals and not laboratories or testing providers,” said Fuld.

Fuld said this inflates the number of positive COVID-19 cases, but the rate of new positives, as well as hospitalizations, remain elevated in Onondaga County and in the Central New York region. As of Friday, the state reported Central New York's 7-day average of cases per 100,000 people was 48 — statewide the rate is 15.6 per 100,000.

Still, County Deputy Executive of Human Services Ann Rooney previously told WAER that hospitals are able to manage during the time of heightened COVID activity.

“A good percentage of what they’re seeing at the hospital is somebody who comes in with another reason; they test everybody and they happen to have COVID and are asymptomatic for COVID,” Rooney said.

County Executive Ryan McMahon announced on Friday that 449 more residents tested positive for COVID, with 32% of results coming from at-home tests. However, McMahon noted that the county was no longer reporting those results to the state. The daily report was the biggest single-day COVID case total since late January.