Officially, Riverside County has more than 35,000 known cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
But a study by the Riverside University Health System reveals that many more people are likely to have been infected with the virus without having been tested or diagnosed.
The study, conducted over two weekends this month, tested 1,726 people and found that 101 had antibodies to COVID-19. That is a 5.9% positivity rate.
If that positivity rate is extrapolated to the entire population of Riverside County, it would mean that between 118,000 and 175,400 people in the county have been infected.
RELATED: USC Antibody Study Says Infection Rate Higher in Los Angeles County than Numbers Reflect
While some of those infected people may not have experienced negative effects of the virus, health officials point out that people without symptoms may still pass it on to others, who may face more serious consequences.
The presence of antibodies indicates that the individual has been infected at some point by the virus and the body’s immune system has fought it. Antibodies remain in the blood even after the virus disappears from the body. Health experts still don’t know how long antibodies remain in the body and continue to provide protection against future infections.
“We continue to learn new information about the coronavirus, and this survey adds important research to the growing knowledge of COVID-19,” said Riverside County Board President and Fourth District Supervisor V. Manuel Pérez. “We still need to protect everyone who is susceptible to getting sick, and we must do so by wearing face covers, physical distancing, hand washing, and avoiding meetings.”
In addition to the 35,000 known cases, Riverside County has had 671 deaths from COVID-19 and currently has 488 people hospitalized. Health officials say more than 356,000 people have been tested for the virus.
Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All rights reserved.