The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that as many as 10 times more Americans may be infected with coronavirus than earlier estimates suggested — which means as many as 20 million may have contracted the virus, but also that the mortality rate may be lower than thought.
“Our best estimate right now is that for every case that’s reported, there actually are 10 other infections,” CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield said on a call with reporters Thursday, NBC News reported.
“This virus causes so much asymptomatic infection. The traditional approach of looking for symptomatic illness and diagnosing it obviously underestimates the total amount of infections,” he continued.
The CDC estimate is based on serology testing used to determine the presence of antibodies that show whether an individual has had the disease.
Redfield again urged Americans to maintain social distancing, wear face coverings and wash their hands frequently.
“The most powerful tool that we have is social distancing,” Redfield said. “If you must go out into the community, being in contact with fewer people is better than many,” Redfield said.
If true, the estimate would suggest the percentage of US deaths from the disease is lower than thought.
More than 120,000 Americans have died from the disease since the pandemic erupted earlier this year.
The estimate comes as government officials note that many new cases are showing up in young people who do not exhibit symptoms and may not know they have it.
Officials said young people with no symptoms, but who are in regular contact with vulnerable populations, should proactively get tested to make sure they do not spread it.
The CDC has sent 40 response teams to help deal with outbreaks in Florida and Texas, among other states.
More than 36,000 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded nationwide on Wednesday, just shy of the record 36,426 on April 24, concentrated on states that were spared the brunt of the initial outbreak or moved early to lift restrictions aimed at curbing the virus’ spread.
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