Between 5% and 8% of the U.S. population has been infected by the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), according to the director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Robert Redfield, who insists that the pandemic is far from over in the United States.
“Five, six, seven or eight percent of the American public has experienced infection, whether they recognized it or not,” Redfield said in a teleconference with journalists on Thursday, when the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country was about 2.4 million.
The CDC’s figures are based on tests done on representative population samples that show whether an individual’s immune system has been in contact with the virus. According to the CDC director, for every confirmed case, there are 10 people with COVID-19 antibodies, which means the real number of infections is over 20 million.
The test results have not been published officially by the CDC, but they match rates observed in various countries and places where serological studies have been conducted. They represent a national average, so rates are higher in hotspots like New York, where the state governor has announced that over a fifth of the residents of the city had contracted the virus.
Warning that the pandemic was not over, Redfield stressed that the most powerful tool available was physical distancing.
Infections have been shooting up in the south and west of the United States, in areas relatively spared by the pandemic in the Spring, but where the use of masks and social distancing measures have not been imposed to the same degree as in the northeast.
Redfield also blamed the current spike in case numbers, similar to April’s record highs, on increased testing: the U.S., which has a population upward of 330 million, conducts about 500,000 tests a day.