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Press Release

How Sure Can We Be About a COVID-19 Test Result if the Tests Are Not Perfectly Accurate?

In a new Cleveland Fed Economic Commentary, researchers show how even a highly reliable COVID-19 test can produce inaccurate results when the prevalence of a virus is low in the tested population. To address this finding, the authors argue that administering inexpensive and less precise tests multiple times may be a more efficient way of curbing the pandemic than administering more precise and expensive tests once.

“Repeated testing can be even more important when the prevalence of a disease is low,” say researchers Allan Dizioli and Roberto Pinheiro. “Given limited public budgets, cheap and less precise tests that can be conducted multiple times can be more efficient in curbing the pandemic than expensive more precise tests conducted less often.”

Read the Economic Commentary: How Sure Can We Be about a COVID-19 Test Result if the Tests Are Not Perfectly Accurate?

Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks that along with the Board of Governors in Washington DC comprise the Federal Reserve System. Part of the US central bank, the Cleveland Fed participates in the formulation of our nation’s monetary policy, supervises banking organizations, provides payment and other services to financial institutions and to the US Treasury, and performs many activities that support Federal Reserve operations System-wide. In addition, the Bank supports the well-being of communities across the Fourth Federal Reserve District through a wide array of research, outreach, and educational activities.

The Cleveland Fed, with branches in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, serves an area that comprises Ohio, western Pennsylvania, eastern Kentucky, and the northern panhandle of West Virginia.

Media contact

Doug Campbell,, 513.455.4479