Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, estimates that there may have been 10 times more COVID-19 cases in the U.S. than the number that is reflected in official statistics, based on the results from antibody studies.
"The traditional approach of looking for symptomatic illness and diagnoses obviously underestimated the total number of infections," Redfield announced last week, Time reported. "Now that serology tests are available, which test for antibodies, the estimates we have right now show about 10 times more people have antibodies in the jurisdictions tested than had documented infections."
How did they estimate this? The estimate comes from the results of serology studies from six locations: the western part of Washington state, New York City, south Florida, Connecticut, Missouri, and Utah.
The surveys found the actual number of cases, based on the number of people in whom they found antibodies, was 11 or 12 times higher in Washington, NYC, south Florida, and Utah. It was 6 times higher in Connecticut and 24 times higher in Missouri.
Further studies in more locations are being conducted to provide more insight on the true scope of the virus.
What does this mean? Media reports in recent weeks have focused on increases in the number of new COVID-19 cases. The U.S. currently counts about 2.6 million total COVID-19 cases.
If the CDC estimate is even close to being accurate, and there have more than 20 million cases, the recent uproar over new positive tests becomes less meaningful, especially if the number of new deaths stays flat or continues to decrease over time even as cases increase
If there have been 20 million cases in the U.S., then the mortality rate is much lower than previously thought, and millions more people than previously known have contracted the virus and not even gotten sick, let alone had to go to a hospital or faced severe and potentially deadly illness.