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Tipsheet

New Study Shows Coronavirus Infections Much Higher, Death Rate Much Lower Than Reported

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

As has been assumed, the number of coronavirus infections in the United States is much larger than the number of cases being reported. The first large-scale study testing people for antibodies to the coronavirus found the number of people infected with the disease is 50-80 times higher than the number of cases being reported. The large number of unreported cases means the death rate for those infected with the virus is also a lot lower than currently indicated.

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Dr. Eran Bendavid, associate professor of medicine at Stanford University, led the study that tested 3,330 individuals for COVID-19 antibodies in California's Santa Clara County. Stanford researches found 2.5 to 4.16 percent of the subjects possessed antibodies to COVID-19. While the number of unreported infections is a far cry from herd immunity, the number surprised many in the medical community. In Santa Clara county, there have been approximately 1,833 reported cases of the coronavirus, but the study suggests somewhere between 48,000 and 81,000 people have had the virus in the county of nearly two million people. 

"Our findings suggest that there is somewhere between 50- and 80-fold more infections in our county than what’s known by the number of cases than are reported by our department of public health," Dr. Bendavid said in an interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer.

With 50 to 80 times the number of reported cases, the corresponding death rate would be much lower. 

Dr. John Brownstein, an ABC News contributor and epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital said the results from the one California county may not be representative of the United States as a whole, noting the researches used online ads to find participants. Nevertheless, Dr. Borwntein said the study shows "a much larger number of cases than we ever anticipated." 

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“There has been wide recognition that we were undercounting infections because of lack of testing or patients were asymptomatic,” Dr. Brownstein added.

The study's findings come on the heels of President Trump's announcement of new guidelines for states to begin reopening their economies and slowly loosen restrictions on social gatherings and workplace interactions. 

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