Concerns over false positive test for coach Nick Saban

Updated: Oct. 19, 2020 at 6:54 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Alabama football coach Nick Saban made it back to the big game this Saturday against Georgia. It turned out the coach had a false positive test for COVID-19.

How common are those false positive tests?

Jefferson County Health Department’s Dr. Wesley Willeford and other doctors nationally said it’s rare, especially for a PCR test, but it does happen. Coach Saban shocked the Crimson Tide nation when he announced last week he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

“Assume everyone you might come into contact with might be infected. You might be infected and not know it.” Saban said.

After three PCR tests by one lab and two more tests by a second lab, Saban tested negative. The PCR tests checks the DNA of the virus while the much quicker antigen test checks the proteins on the virus.

“Like we have said before, there have been some incidences where the positive tests have not been correct but I don’t think that is incredibly common.” Willeford said.

The antigen rapid test is less sensitive and has a higher false testing rates, especially when it comes to false negative tests. Willeford said testing continues to go well in Jefferson County with many taking advantage of the testing availability. What he fears is some may not get tested after seeing a false positive test for Coach Saban.

“Certainly if you are having symptoms yes, so you know what is going on and you don’t have any more impact on people around you than you have to.” Willeford said.

Another reason to get tested is if you have been exposed. PCR tests are more reliable than the antigen tests. Willeford said antigen tests had a 21% false negative rate which is a great concern.

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