Sublette County had two new coronavirus cases confirmed on Tuesday, bringing the county's total to 62 cases. There are also 35 people in the Daniel and Pinedale areas under quarantine or isolation.
The case count includes 45 lab-confirmed cases and 17 probable cases, with 12 cases currently active, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.
Confirmed & Probable: A Distinction With No Practical Difference
Early on in the coronavirus pandemic, health officials made a distinction between lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 and probable cases. While the lab-confirmed cases are just that, the Wyoming Department of Health website still defines probable cases as “close contacts of lab-confirmed cases with symptoms consistent with COVID-19.” Initially this was an important distinction: With a national shortage of testing supplies, not everyone who was symptomatic could be tested. Testing was limited to symptomatic patients meeting certain criteria, and close contacts of lab-confirmed cases.
Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then. The Sublette County Rural Health Care District (RHCD) is now able to do most COVID-19 testing in house, without the need to send most samples to an outside lab for confirmation, a process that can take days. That’s great news, and what’s even better is that the RHCD lab is usually able to get the results back to the patient within the same day, or within 24 hours.
This major progress in testing is made possible by the type of test RHCD is using in most situations involving symptomatic patients. Without going into too much detail about testing protocols, what you need to know is that the traditional COVID-19 test is the PCR test, which looks for pieces of the RNA (genetic code) of the virus that causes COVID-19 to determine if the person has an active infection.
While the PCR test is still available and used in certain situations, the RHCD is using an antigen test for symptomatic patients, which looks for pieces of proteins that make up the capsule of the coronavirus to determine if the patient has an active infection. A positive antigen test confirms the presence of an active COVID-19 infection, and RHCD is able to do this test inside its own laboratory, for a fast result. However, a negative antigen test is not conclusive, so further testing may be recommended to rule out COVID-19.
But when the positive RHCD antigen test makes its way into Wyoming Department of Health reports, it is included in the “probable” cases rather than “lab-confirmed” cases (which is where the PCR positive results are recorded). For all practical purposes, these two categories are now the same when it comes to a positive test result at the local level. That’s why you may notice many counties reporting their total case numbers without going into the details on how many are “probable” and how many are “lab-confirmed.”