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COVID-19 studies done in CA, MA and NY are starting to confirm what’s long been suspected, that there are vastly more asymptomatic or mild cases of the virus than the official confirmed case counts.
This sounds like bad news, but if the studies hold up and results can be replicated it’s actually very good. Mostly.
Key Take Aways:
- Getting the virus does not mean a death sentence or hospitalization for most people. Many will get it and not even realize it.
- We are looking at a much lower and more manageable death rate than initially feared.
- Protection for vulnerable populations should be reinforced as the more asymptomatic carriers there are, the more difficult it will be to contain the spread.
- These studies are not final and still need peer review. They do offer a good snapshot where eventually more informed and better public policy decisions can be made moving forward.
The University of Southern California partnered with Los Angeles County on a COVID-19 antibody study that concluded 2.8%-5.6% of LA County’s adult population had virus antibodies present, translating to 221,000-422,000 past infected people which far exceeds the confirmed case count at the time of testing of of 8,000.
The study’s lead investigator, USC Professor Neeraj Mood stated, “We haven’t known the true extent of COVID-19 infections in our community because we have only tested people with symptoms, and the availability of tests has been limited. The estimates also suggest that we might have to recalibrate disease prediction models and rethink public health strategies.”
Study summary can be found here.
Also in California, Stanford University researchers came to similar conclusions with their antibody testing study in Santa Clara County. Those scientists estimate that between 48,000 to 81,000 people had been infected with the virus in the county by early-April, which is 50-85 times larger than the number of publicly confirmed cases and that they conclude lands the fatality rate at 0.12 to 0.2 percent.
Study summary can be found here.
In Boston something very interesting happened when 297 residents of the Pine Street Inn homeless shelter were tested for COVID-19 and found 146 were positive and not a single one had symptoms.
“It was like a double knockout punch. The number of positives was shocking, but the fact that 100 percent of the positives had no symptoms was equally shocking,” said Dr. Jim O’Connell, president of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program.
And finally, in New York, where according to Governor Cuomo, “We have undertaken the largest, most comprehensive study of New York state to find out what is the infection rate,” massive antibody testing points to 13.9% of the state population having been infected with COVID-19 and having either recovered or were fully asymptomatic.
Cuomo said if the 13.9% statewide infection rate holds true, that would suggest a total amount of infections of around 2.7 million statewide, with a 0.5% death rate.
Pretty interesting stuff. None of this is to take away from the 217,000 worldwide COVID-19 deaths or say they aren’t tragic. It’s a serious and deadly virus that warrants proper attention, but so do the calamitous effects of shutting down our economy and keeping healthy people shut up in their homes.
Have we made a catastrophic mistake here that will cause more suffering and death in the long run and take years to overcome? Or did we dodge The big One by preventing the initially predicted mass casualties and death?
Only time and more studies like this will tell.