WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Government experts believe more than 20 million Americans could have contracted the coronavirus, 10 times more than official counts, indicating that many people without symptoms have or have had the disease, senior administration officials said .
The estimate, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is based on serology tests used to determine the presence of antibodies that show whether an individual has had the disease, officials said.
Officials, speaking to a small group of reporters on Wednesday night, said the estimate was based on the number of known cases, between 2.3 million and 2.4 million, multiplied by the average rate of antibodies seen in serology tests, approximately an average of 10 to 1.
“If you multiply the cases by that proportion, that’s where you get that figure of 20 million,” said an official.
If true, the estimate would suggest that the percentage of deaths in the United States from the disease is lower than previously thought. More than 120,000 Americans have died from the disease since the pandemic erupted earlier this year.
The estimate comes when government officials point out that many new cases are appearing in young people who don’t show symptoms and may not know they have them.
Authorities said youth without symptoms, but who are in regular contact with vulnerable populations, should be proactively tested to make sure they don’t spread.
“We have heard from Florida and Texas that about half of the new cases that are reported are people under the age of 35, and many of them are asymptomatic,” said an official.
The CDC has dispatched 40 response teams to help deal with the outbreaks, they said.
More than 36,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported across the country on Wednesday, just below the record of 36,426 on April 24, concentrated in states that got rid of the worst part of the initial outbreak or moved early to lift the restrictions designed to stop the spread of the virus. .
Report from Steve Holland; Editing by Lisa Shumaker