New coronavirus data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that the actual amount of COVID-19 cases may be approximately two to 13 times higher than government data currently indicates, according to The New York Times.
The data come from a CDC Laboratory Seroprevalence Survey, which measured the COVID-19 antibodies in blood specimens of people across 10 different sites in the U.S., including states and cities like Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, South Florida, Utah and western Washington state.
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After collecting blood samples from people for reasons reportedly unrelated to the coronavirus, each specimen was tested by commercial laboratories nearby. Additionally, in a second, later collection, 8 out of the 10 sites reported results.
“These data continue to show that the number of people who have been infected with the virus that causes Covid-19 far exceeds the number of reported cases,” Fiona Havers, the lead CDC researcher on the study, told the Times via email. “Many of these people likely had no symptoms or mild illness and may have had no idea that they were infected.”
This further underscores the power asymptomatic transmission has had in spreading the virus. Results also imply that large portions of state populations have not been exposed to the virus yet, with areas like the San Francisco Bay Area exhibiting a 1.0 percent estimated population infected with the virus.
Knowing the population of the San Francisco region is approximately 6,7 million, according to the CDC, this means 64,626 residents in the area have been infected.
Unfortunately, this is bad news for reaching herd immunity, which would require around 80 percent of the population to be immune to the virus, according to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“These figures suggest that the U.S. is nowhere near herd immunity,” Carl Bergstrom, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Washington in Seattle, told the Times.
As part of an ongoing project, the CDC has a goal of testing 1,800 samples collected from each of these aforementioned areas about every three to four weeks to examine the spread and prevalence of the virus.
The CDC notes that this data must be interpreted cautiously, and some results could be false positives. The agency also says the population sampled may not be representative of the region as a whole.
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