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Florida requiring labs to report critical ‘cycle threshold’ of COVID-19 tests

Mandatory reporting rules include number of amplification cycles of test

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A COVID testing site in Orlando, Florida
A COVID testing site in Orlando, Florida
(SOPA Images/Getty)
Updated: December 5, 2020 - 7:03pm

The Florida Department of Health is requiring that all labs in the state report the critical “cycle threshold” level of every COVID-19 test they perform.

In a press release this week, the department said that, regarding COVID-19 tests, “cycle threshold (CT) values and their reference ranges, as applicable, must be reported by laboratories to FDOH via electronic laboratory reporting or by fax immediately.”

“Cycle thresholds” are the level at which widely used polymerase chain reaction test can detect a sample of the COVID-19 virus. The higher the number of cycles, the lower the amount of viral load in the sample; the lower the cycles, the more prevalent the virus was in the original sample.

Numerous epidemiological experts have argued that cycle thresholds are an important metric by which patients and the public can make an informed decision about how infectious and/or sick an individual with a positive COVID-19 test might be. However, health departments across the country are failing to collect that data.

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