Johnson County lab tested 2,000 people for COVID-19 at free event last week — 39% came back positive

MyHomeLabs, an Overland Park-based at-home testing company, conducted a free, one-day testing site on Jan. 4, and nearly 2,000 lined up in their cars, above, to get tested. The company now says 39% of tests conducted that day came back positive for COVID-19. Photo credit Carlos Moreno/KCUR 89.3.

After testing nearly 2,000 people at a free drive-thru testing event last week, an Overland Park lab says nearly 40% of tests came back positive for COVID-19.

MyHomeLabs offered the free testing last Tuesday, Jan. 4, a day before many Johnson County students were set to return to classes for the new semester.

The event drew a crowd, with hundreds of cars lining up at the testing site near 151st and Glenwood.

By the end of the week, when MyHomeLabs had processed all the tests conducted at the free event, 39% came back positive for COVID-19, MyHomeLabs’ Chief Medical Officer Neal Erickson said.

It’s an indication, Erickson said, that the virus that causes COVID-19 is likely more widespread than even public data indicates, with a recent record-breaking surge of new cases fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment on its last update to its online COVID-19 dashboard Friday reported a 26.6% positivity rate and an incidence rate of 1,241 new cases per 100,000 residents.

Across Kansas, the monthly positivity rate to date stands at 28.6%, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Erickson said and while many people may be tired of hearing about COVID-19, it’s time to buckle down on social distancing, masking and regular testing.

“The worst thing we can do right now is to get tired and let our guard down,” he said. “I think, at least for the next two to three weeks, we need to be hyper-vigilant on all those risk mitigation strategies to keep exposure down.”

The county’s COVID-19 dashboard does make note that the “numbers are not representative of the total number of individuals with COVID-19 in Johnson County.”

“The positivity rate shown on the dashboard includes all tests reported in Johnson County not just one location,” JCDHE Director Sanmi Areola told the Post via email. “It includes test from all testing sites, not just JCDHE.”

Erickson made clear, also, that while the MyHomeLabs one-day testing site was hosted in Overland Park, it’s unknown how many of the nearly 2,000 people tested that day live in Johnson County.

Erickson said while regular testing is important, he knows it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find tests in the community. That’s one of the reasons why MyHomeLabs offered free testing on Jan. 4.

MyHomeLabs is selling PCR test kits online here for $130.

Erickson said the PCR tests like the ones MyHomeLabs sells are more sensitive than rapid antigen COVID-19 tests more commonly found at pharmacies. He said those aren’t as good at picking up an infection in its early stages.

“Getting data is really important to know if you have it, and if you do, you can be extra cautious on preventing exposure to other people,” Erickson said. “Offering testing to the community is what we’re trying to do here.”