COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The official number of reported COVID-19 cases could be significantly underestimated, according to health leaders. The disparity comes from an unknown number of unreported at-home rapid test results.

“I imagine [the positivity rate] is probably at least five to 10 percent higher than what we’re seeing,” said Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts.

In December alone, Columbus Public Health gave away more than 34,000 at-home COVID-19 test kits. The demand for the rapid antigen tests skyrocketed in the last several weeks of 2021, as many prepared for holiday gatherings.

“Not only are there test kits that we distributed from the health department, but people can buy them from retail pharmacies, as well as buy them online,” said Dr. Roberts.

She explained the volume of tests purchased and handed out, in Columbus and Franklin County, likely means there are more positive cases in the community than what’s officially reported.

If you’ve taken an at-home test using a live, online guide, the proctor is required to report your results to the Ohio Department of Health. Most other tests, without a proctor, rely on the user to disclose their own results.

“I don’t really have an indication of how many people actually follow through and do that. We know when we look at the positivity rate here in Franklin County, as well as across the state, that the numbers are probably much higher than what’s reported,” Dr. Roberts said.

She explained Columbus Public Health collects data through a link on its website. She encourages those with positive test results to report their status as soon as possible.

“That would be very helpful for us to have an accurate picture of our positivity rate here,” she said.

Dr. Roberts explained that while knowing the scope of infection in the community is important, it’s just as important to know your personal status so you can avoid spreading the virus to others.

If you have a positive test, she said, “Stay home. If you do have to go out or if you do have to go encounter other people in your household, make sure you have a good mask on.”

If you’ve taken an at-home test and would like to report your results, you can use the Columbus Public Health submission form by clicking on this link.

Find out more about a community PCR drive-thru testing site, hosted by the OSU Wexner Medical Center and CAS, by clicking here. The testing site requires an appointment.