- New CDC research says that only a small fraction of Americans who have caught COVID-19 actually received a diagnosis with a coronavirus test.
- There have been 13 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the US so far, but the CDC estimates that the actual figure is much higher.
- The CDC says that as many as 100 million Americans have been infected by the novel coronavirus so far.
The US has reached 13 million confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Friday morning, but that figure might be significantly lower than the actual number of people who have been infected by the novel coronavirus in the country. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study that says that only about one in eight COVID-19 infections were identified and reported from February to September. The figure has improved from a previous 1 in 10 estimate that the CDC had previously issued. But if this latest data is accurate, it helps explain the current skyrocketing numbers because most cases are not confirmed with a proper COVID-19 test.
The CDC researchers estimated that about 52.9 million Americans had been infected in the US by the end of September. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is only 6.9 million for the period. “This indicates that approximately 84% of the U.S. population has not yet been infected and thus most of the country remains at risk, despite already high rates of hospitalization,” the researchers wrote.
Extrapolating from the data and assuming the ratio still holds, NPR concluded that the new estimates that more than 95 million Americans have been infected with the novel coronavirus so far.
Nearly 100 million infections is a scary figure, but what’s even scarier is that about 71% of the population remains uninfected and is therefore at risk of contracting the illness. COVID-19 has been spreading at record speed, with the US registering new daily records for infections and hospitalizations throughout most of November. That also means we’re still far from approaching herd immunity. To achieve herd immunity for COVID-19, scientists estimate that 70% of the population would have to be immune, either from exposure to the pathogen or by getting vaccinated.
A different model said a few days ago suggested that America’s COVID-19 caseload might double in two months to more than 20 million confirmed cases. If the CDC 8-to-1 ratio still holds, that would mean that as many as 160 million Americans might get the illness by then. Public health experts expect Thanksgiving to fuel another massive spike in the US, with numbers expected to skyrocket even further in the coming weeks.
The CDC model does make it clear that many of COVID-19 cases go unreported, especially asymptomatic and mild cases. But the study also pointed out that even hospitalized cases aren’t always confirmed with a test. The researchers estimated that only 1 of every 2.5 hospitalized infections were reported officially by the end of September.
“These preliminary estimates help demonstrate the societal and healthcare burdens of the COVID-19 pandemic and can help inform resource allocation and mitigation planning,” the researchers conclude.