Surprise! The coronavirus outbreak may have started a lot earlier than we thought, and may be a lot less deadly than we’ve been told.
And by “surprise,” I mean “duh.”
A new study out of New York has revealed more than 13 percent of New Yorkers tested as a sample popped positive for having coronavirus antibodies, meaning they’d had the virus at some point even if they’d never shown symptoms or been tested for the disease. In New York City, where the outbreak has been by far the most severe hotspot in both the state and the country, slightly more than 21 percent tested positive for antibodies.
The random sampling included 3,000 New Yorkers from 40 localities spread over 19 counties. Extrapolated across the entire state, that means New York could have actually had 2.7 million infections statewide, more than 10 times the number of confirmed positive cases.
As NBC New York explains, more than 16,000 New Yorkers, many of them in NYC, have reportedly died from COVID-19. When compared to the roughly 260,000 confirmed cases in the state, this would mean the mortality rate comes out to about 6 percent, staggeringly high compared to the seasonal flu.
But if this new antibody test is correct and nearly 2.7 million New Yorkers have been infected, this would drop the fatality rate to just 0.5 percent.
The findings echo similar results out of Los Angeles County, where a random test of 863 people found that 4.1 percent already had coronavirus antibodies in their system, regardless of whether they’d ever been tested or thought they’d had the virus. That would mean the real number of people who’d been infected with the coronavirus at some point, even if they’d never shown symptoms, could be anywhere between 221,000 and 442,000 adults, far higher than the county’s 8,000 confirmed cases. As the number of likely infections has risen, that study estimated a COVID-19 fatality rate of roughly 0.1 to 0.2 percent, in line with the mortality rate of the seasonal flu.