Business Insider Edition

CDC admits true Covid-19 count for the US is likely to be 10 times higher than official count

Rosie Perper , Business Insider US
 Jun 26, 2020, 09:13 AM
  • CDC Director Robert Redfield told reporters on Thursday that the number of Americans that have been infected with coronavirus is likely 10 times higher than the official count.
  • "Our best estimate right now is that for every case that's reported, there actually are 10 other infections," he told reporters.
  • Redfield's admission echoes what researchers have been saying for months about the likelihood of a higher coronavirus count, particularly in countries with severe outbreaks.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, admitted that the number of Americans that have been infected with coronavirus is likely 10 times higher than the official count.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Redfield said that more younger people are being diagnosed than in previous months, leading to increased numbers of coronavirus.

"Our best estimate right now is that for every case that's reported, there actually are 10 other infections," he told reporters.

As of Thursday, the CDC has recorded 2.3 million coronavirus cases and over 121,000 deaths. But according to Redfield, the actual number of coronavirus cases could be as many as 23 million.

He said that in the past, health officials did not effectively diagnose the coronavirus in people under 50 who did not require hospitalisation. He also said that officials didn't "aggressively pursue diagnostics in young asymptomatic individuals."

"I think obviously we're seeing right now infections that are targeting younger individuals," Redfield said, adding that those people still posed a major risk of transmitting the disease onto others.

"I remain concerned about trying to understand the effective public health messaging that we need to get to those individuals that are under the age of 35 or 40 - where the impact and consequences of Covid-19 on them may not be highly associated with hospitalisation and death," he added. "They do act as a transmission connector for individuals that could be at higher risk."

"How much of what we're seeing now was occurring and was just unrecognised?" he said.

The director said the CDC would "continue to do extensive surveillance throughout the nation using antibody testing."

He added that while the number of coronavirus cases across the US appears to be increasing as states lift their lockdown restrictions, there are "probably" only about 110 to 120 counties that the CDC considers to have "significant transmission," termed coronavirus "hotspots."

"That represents about 3% of the counties in the US," he said of the number of high-risk areas.

Redfield's admission echoes what researchers have been saying for months about the likelihood of a higher coronavirus count, particularly in countries with severe outbreaks.

"Really nobody knows," Elizabeth Halloran, a biostatistician at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington, told Business Insider's Aria Bendix in April. "A lot of people have been missed."

A study published Monday in the journal Science estimated that 8.7 million people in the US may have had the coronavirus between March 8 to 28, meaning that millions may have gone undiagnosed. Only 100,000 cases were officially recorded during that time.

But despite the disparity in the official coronavirus count, numerous counts indicate that the number of coronavirus cases in the US continues to rise. On Thursday, the number of new coronavirus cases rose by at least 39,818, the largest single-day increase of the virus since the start of the pandemic.

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