The number of Americans who have contracted COVID-19 is likely 10 times higher than the 2.5 million currently confirmed cases, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
Center For Disease Control (CDC) Director Dr. Robert Redfield’s estimate indicates that at least 25 million Americans have been infected by SARS-CoV-2 to date.
That means the fatality rate could be 10 times lower than previously thought.
By the numbers as of June 28, via the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering:
- 2,510,337 confirmed cases
- 125,539 fatalities
- = 5.0% death rate
But using Redfield’s numbers, the equation looks like this:
- 25,103,370 cases
- 125,539 fatalities
- = 0.5% death rate
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have soared recently amid a massive testing increase in states across the country. But because the virus can be asymptomatic in up to 50% of people, the number of infected is likely far higher, Redfield says.
Millions of Americans have taken antibody tests, which show whether a person’s blood indicates the immune system has responded to infection. Some studies have shown that the number of those infected is far higher than the official count kept by the CDC, as well as the Hopkins count.
Most of the predictions have been far off the mark. First, officials predicted 1.7 million Americans dead; then they redid the models and said 100,000-240,000 would die. But some studies have revealed different scenarios.
A new study suggests that as many as 8.7 million Americans were infected with coronavirus in March, but found that more than 80% went undiagnosed.
An antibody study conducted in late April in New York City found that 1 in 5 (21.2%) of residents had already been infected with the coronavirus. There are 8.5 million people in New York City, so that would mean 1.8 million New Yorkers have had the virus.
At the time of the study, there were 16,249 deaths in the city attributed to COVID-19, which meant the death rate in the city was 0.89% — far lower than reports in the U.S. media.
Results of an antibody survey in Los Angeles found as many as 442,000 Los Angeles County residents might have already been infected with the coronavirus by early April, a number far higher than the 8,000 cases confirmed at the time. The survey suggested that the death rate from the virus could be as low as 0.18% of COVID-19 patients, which meant the actual death rate in the city was far lower than reported.
The Daily Mail reported in April that “coronavirus may kill 70 times fewer patients than official UK death figures suggest, studies have shown.” The Mail said a similar fatality rate — 0.19% — was found in a study of residents in Helsinki, Finland.
And a study, this one by Dr. Justin Silverman, estimated that there were 8.7 million coronavirus infections in the U.S. between March 8 and March 28. And as of April 17, 10% of Americans have been infected — which is roughly 33 million Americans, the study found.
Meanwhile, a Stanford University antibody study in late April estimated the fatality rate from the virus is likely 0.1% to 0.2%. The World Health Organization (WHO) had estimated that the death rate was 20 to 30 times higher and called for isolation policies.
In New York City, the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic, the death rate for people 18 to 45 years old was 0.01%, or 10 per 100,000 in the population, a May study found. People aged 75 and older, though, have a death rate 80 times that. For children under 18, the rate of death is zero per 100,000.
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