More than 20 million Americans may have contracted COVID-19, according to new data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The data was collected from blood samples of citizens nationwide and indicate that nearly 10 times more people have caught the virus than the 2.3 million confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, representing 6% of the total population according to the Associated Press.
“Our best estimate right now is that for every case that’s reported, there actually are 10 other infections,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said on a call with reporters Thursday, Axios reported.
While many spikes in new cases caused several states to reverse plans for reopening, U.S. health officials believe this new estimate likely reflects that many Americans contracted the virus earlier in the year without knowing, the AP reports. (RELATED: New York To Mandate 14-Day Quarantine For Travelers From States With ‘Significant Community Spread Of COVID’)
This belief is consistent with infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci’s estimate that up to 45% of infected people may experience no symptoms.
Some health experts, however, caution against accepting precise estimates of the total infected population. “Most of these estimates exist in a range,” Dr. Thomas Tsai, a public health expert at Harvard University, told the AP. “It’s hard to interpret this just from a single number and without the context for it.”
Dr. Tsai explained that the blood samples may not have been taken from a representative slice of the population. If the samples were taken from areas with higher percentages of those infected, for example, the estimate would be skewed.
As the vast majority of Americans have still not contracted the virus, health officials said that the CDC is working to reemphasize the need for safety measures like wearing masks in public and social distancing.
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