Recently states have been implementing aggressive antibody testing to get an estimate on the actual number of COVID-19 cases and the numbers are staggering. A lot more people have, or have had, the novel coronavirus than originally thought. This means that the virus is a lot more contagious than experts were thinking, but also significantly less deadly.
The WHO, World Health Organization, has been spouting a death rate of 3.4%. This means that if 1000 people get the virus then 34 will die.
A large majority of people who get COVID-19 may not even know they’ve had it because they have not shown any symptoms.
When a body has an infection, like COVID-19, it creates antibodies to fight off the infection. For every different type of infection a different type of antibodies are created. Antibody testing, or serology testing, checks for these antibodies. If your blood has these antibodies that means that you had the virus and your antibodies fought it off.
There have been two instances of widespread antibody testing, one in New York and the other a University of Southern California study. Both of these studies show that the actual number of people who have had COVID-19 greatly exceeds the documented cases.
The USC test results came out Monday. They conducted their test on people in LA county. The result of their test is eye opening. According to their test, 4.1% of the county’s adults tested has an antibody for COVID-19, meaning they have had the virus. By extrapolating this for the whole county, they estimate that 411,000 people have actually had COVID-19 compared to the 16,000 confirmed. This means that it is far less deadly than originally thought. If 411,000 people have had it in LA County and 729 have died from it, then the death rate is closer to 0.17% compared to the WHO estimate of 3.4%.
The average fatality rate of the seasonal flu is 0.129% according to the CDC.
New York has had similar results. In his daily presser today Andrew Cuomo, the New York Governor, said that according to their antibody testing 13.9% of the state has had the virus. This means that approximately 2,703,550 people have most likely had the virus compared, to the 257,216 confirmed. This brings the death rate in NY state closer to 0.56%.
While this virus is way more widespread than we originally thought, it is a lot less deadly and a lot less devastating than originally thought.
EDIT: This is not to say that COVID-19 is less dangerous than the flu. COVID-19 is 3 times more contagious and about 2 times deadlier.