The number of people who have had COVID-19 is much greater than the official case count, according to data and a new analysis released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday.
Depending on the region and the time period, the number of people infected was anywhere between 2 and 24 times the number of reported cases, the CDC team said.
“For most sites, it is likely that greater than 10 times more … infections occurred than the number of reported COVID-19 cases,” the team wrote.
In New York, the CDC estimates suggest that 642,000 people were infected by April 1 but at that point only 53,803 cases were officially reported. That means the number of infections could be at least 12 times higher than reported, the CDC said.
The CDC says the number of cases in South Florida, Connecticut and Minnesota was 6 to 11 times higher than the official count, the CDC said.
These numbers are likely conservative, according to the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The data used in the analysis was published on the CDC website.
The CDC has updated that data since the report was submitted to show two different testing periods starting in March and April.
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said last month that testing had likely missed 90% or so of cases.
The country remains far from a level that would give the population herd immunity — assuming that having been infected once provides immunity. Doctors are not sure if that is the case.
Hours after the CDC analysis was released, President Donald Trump warned Americans that the pandemic will “probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better.”
“Something I don’t like saying about things, but that’s the way it is,” he said Tuesday during the first White House coronavirus briefing in months.
A surge of cases has been ravaging states from coast to coast, putting reopening plans on hold, forcing officials to quickly expand testing and leaving hospitals scrambling with the influx of patients.
A total of 57,216 cases of COVID-19 and at least 970 virus-related deaths were reported in the US on Tuesday, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. At least 3.89 million coronavirus cases have been identified and more than 141,800 people have died in the US.
Face masks have an impact, Trump says
After months of downplaying their importance, Trump encouraged Americans to wear a face mask on Tuesday to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We are asking everybody, when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask,” Trump said Tuesday during a White House briefing.
“Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact,” he said.
Experts say masks are one of the most powerful tools to battle the spread and nearly 40 states now have some type of mask requirement in place.
On Tuesday, Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague signed a proclamation requiring residents to wear masks in public places and while outdoors when social distancing is not possible, defying Iowa’s Gov. Kim Reynolds who has said cities have no authority to require face coverings.
“The scientific data and evidence is clear. Face coverings and masks are a safe, effective way to get case numbers down,” Teague said.
The high number of people testing positive for coronavirus across the US has slowed the time it takes to get test results.
Diagnostic labs are feeling the effects of the spike in cases and are working to scale up their capacity. But a leading commercial lab has said results can now take up to two weeks for some patients.
Jennifer Rakeman, director of the New York City Public Health Laboratory, said Tuesday the lack of a national testing strategy is contributing to the delay.
“We need a national testing strategy, so that the limited testing resources we have can be used effectively, so that testing turnaround times can be decreased, so that contact tracing can happen in real time, and so that COVID-19 patients and their contacts can isolate and transmission of the virus can be stopped,” she said during an Alliance for Health Policy Summit.