COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Laboratory scientists are testing about 25% of Colorado's positive COVID-19 cases for variants, according to health officials, but you likely won't ever know if you specifically had a variant.
Emily Travanty, the laboratory director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), says almost all of the cases sequenced in the sample are Delta variant-related cases. However, 13 Investigates learned those individual variant test results are not shared with patients or physicians, meaning you won't know if your sample was one that was tested for a variant.
"At this time, it's used for public health surveillance, so we get the information we share it with our epidemiologist, and they use it to look at the distribution of the variants across the state, as well as what percentage of the tests are coming back at the various variants," Travanty explained. "So, that we can understand how much mixing there is virus across the stage, but it doesn't go back to the individual physician or patient."
Coloradans and most Americans currently aren't notified if they've been infected with a COVID variant because of what test results federal regulators allow to be shared with patients.
Federal regulators with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid require health information related to COVID-19 only be provided to patients when a diagnostic test is completed. In Colorado and other states, scientists are doing public surveillance sequencing testing for variants.
It appears unlikely that individual variant-specific data will be provided soon.
"There are so many variants arising every day, and so it's become much too large of a task to validate that individual test each time it changes, we would have to go back to the beginning and start over and revalidate it each time a new variant is discovered," Travanty explained.
CDPHE said it is currently seeking guidance from federal officials on the best ways to get a validated test to share that information with infected Coloradans. However, state health officials tell 13 Investigates that could be challenging because the COVID-19 genome is rapidly changing.
The state lab director says getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and your family from severe COVID-19 illness.