Los Angeles coronavirus infections are 40 times greater than known cases

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LOS ANGELES – Some 4.1% of adults tested positive for anti-coronavirus antibodies in a study of residents of Los Angeles County, health officials said on Monday, suggesting the infection rate could be 40 times higher than the number of confirmed cases.

Serological tests by University of Southern California researchers on 863 people indicate that the pandemic death rate may be lower than previously thought, but also that respiratory disease may be more widespread by people who have no symptoms.

“We do not know the real extent of COVID-19 infections in our community because we have only tested people with symptoms and the availability of tests has been limited,” neeraj Sood, professor of public policy at ‘USC and principal investigator on the study.

“The estimates also suggest that we may have to recalibrate disease forecasting models and rethink public health strategies,” said Sood.

At least 17 additional deaths were recorded Monday in Los Angeles County, bringing the total to 600, with more than 12,300 positive cases, according to a Reuters count. The county is home to approximately 8 million people.

Los Angeles County results have been announced as antibody tests are increasingly monitored for a high number of false positives reported in the kits.

A similar study conducted in Santa Clara County last week by a Stanford University researcher was criticized for its methodology and sample size.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Sunday that health officials will begin antibody testing on 3,000 people on Monday.

Antibody tests, using decades-old ELISA technology, do not always detect infections at an early stage, but show whether a person had the virus in the past, even if the person was asymptomatic.

In comparison, the so-called RT-PCR swab tests used in driving stations and clinics across the country determine whether a person has the virus at this time by looking for it in the secretions of the nose or throat .

Both tests are considered critical in the fight against coronaviruses, but antibody tests are considered a relatively inexpensive and quick way to sort populations into risk groups and measure the spread of the virus.

According to some infectious disease specialists, questions remain about how long levels of immunity to coronaviruses will last and whether people with antibodies may still be contagious.

In the country, 41,790 deaths have been reported by COVID-19, with more than 772,000 confirmed cases, according to the Reuters count. (Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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