If CDC Director Robert Redfield is accurate, 25 million people in the U.S. may have been infected with the coronavirus to date, rather than the 2.4 million currently counted under the nation’s current testing regime.
Redfield said in a Thursday briefing that the actual number of infections could be 10 times higher than those that have been tested and come up positive so far, based on surveys of blood samples taken around the country.
“This virus causes so much asymptomatic infection,” Redfield said. “We probably recognized about 10 percent of the outbreak.”
Five to eight percent of those surveyed in serology blood sample results had contracted the virus, while the 2.4 million positive test results in the U.S. to date represent less than one percent of the country’s population.
Pandemic not over: Redfield
Redfield was quick to point out that the pandemic was not over despite the much-higher likely infection rate.
“This outbreak is not over. This pandemic is not over,” he said to reporters. “The most powerful tool that we have, powerful weapon, is social distancing.”
Redfield said it was important to continue being careful about transmission of the virus to protect the elderly and vulnerable who are at risk for serious complications and death from it.
About 100 CDC staffers were currently deployed to 20 states with rising case numbers to help deal with the spikes, Redfield said.
“We’re not talking about a second wave right now, we’re still in the first wave. And that first wave is taking different shapes,” Redfield said.
Virus weakening as it mutates
The spike in cases has not been accompanied in most states by a proportional spike in hospitalizations and deaths, which may be because the virus is reportedly mutating and becoming weaker.
Top Italian doctor Matteo Bassetti reported last week that patients were surviving infections they would have died from a month or two ago, and said that viruses do tend to get weaker as they mutate in many cases.
Treatments have also helped more people to survive the virus than when it first came to the U.S. and no one knew how to treat it. Because of these factors, it should be possible to weather the spikes without further shutdowns and restrictions, if politicians can avoid panicking and remain calm.