Nearly 25 million Americans may have contracted the coronavirus, ten times more than the number of confirmed cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.
In a briefing with journalists on Thursday, CDC Director Robert Redfield said that surveys of blood samples taken from across the country suggest that millions of Americans may have contracted the virus without knowing it or with minimal symptoms.
For each confirmed case, Redfield said, the CDC estimates that ten more people have been infected.
“This virus causes so much asymptomatic infection,” said Redfield. “We probably recognized about 10 percent of the outbreak.”
Nearly 2.4 million Americans have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Medicine Science and Systems Engineering. Redfield said serological surveys of blood samples, collected both for coronavirus tests and for other reasons, such as blood donations or laboratory tests, showed that 5 to 8 percent of Americans have contracted the virus.
Most people who get the SARS-CoV-2 virus show few or no symptoms, and only a small percentage require hospitalization. But while the number of potentially infected people is multitudes greater than the number of confirmed cases, Redfield also said that the relatively low percentage of Americans who have been infected means that hundreds of millions more are still at risk.
“This outbreak is not over. This pandemic is not over. The most powerful tool we have, a powerful weapon, is social distancing,” said Redfield. “We have a responsibility to practice social mitigation strategies to protect the vulnerable, to protect the elderly.”
CDC officials are cautiously watching an increasing number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the southern and southwestern states, Redfield told reporters in a conference call. More than 100 CDC employees are deployed in about 20 states to help local health departments deal with the large number of cases.
The number of cases has grown especially in states such as Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia, all states where the average daily number of confirmed cases has doubled or more in the last two weeks. Hospitalizations are on the rise in many of those states, and officials in Texas and Arizona have sounded the alarm in recent days about declining hospital capacity.
On the other hand, there are signs of hope in some of the early epicenters of the outbreak. Governor of New York Andrew CuomoAndrew Cuomo Night Health Care: Texas, Florida and Arizona See More Record Cases | Trump ‘does not withdraw support’ from COVID-19 test sites | NY, NJ, CT impose quarantine on certain travelers Ken Burns: ‘Confederate monuments have to go’ The Hill’s 12:30 Report – Presented by Facebook – New York Marathon canceled MORE (D) said Thursday that his state was treating fewer than 1,000 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, the first time since mid-March that the number of hospitalized cases had dropped below 1,000.
Hospitalizations are declining in Connecticut, Washington, DC, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, too.
“We are not talking about a second wave right now, we are still in the first wave. And that first wave is taking different forms,” Redfield said.