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Increase in US COVID-19 case rates underestimates "true surge" in asymptomatic transmission: expert

Insights2020-07-03

TheincreaseinCOVID-19caseratesreportedintheUnitedStateshasunderestimatedatruesurgeofcoronaviruscurrentlyintheasymptomatictransmission,aleadingepidemiologisthass

The increase in COVID-19 case rates reported in the United States has underestimated a "true surge" of coronavirus currently in the asymptomatic transmission, a leading epidemiologist has said.

"We continue to learn about the critical role that transmission by people without symptoms plays in maintaining the epidemic. It is more and more likely that we will learn that over 50 percent of infections -- especially in people younger than 40 may be asymptomatic," Robert Schooley, a professor of medicine with the Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health at the University of California, San Diego, told Xinhua in an interview.

Fewer of these individuals ended up in the hospital or died, so the increase in the reported case rates greatly underestimated a "true surge" of the virus currently underway in this demographic, he noted.

More than 2,731,000 COVID-19 cases were reported in the United States with fatalities surpassing 128,600 as of Thursday evening, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported a new single-day record of 54,357 cases across the country.

Several states reported record daily increase in COVID-19 cases over the past days. Florida reported on Thursday 10,109 new cases, marking a new single-day record for the state.

"Politicians who point to the 'higher number of tests being done' and to the 'lower death and hospitalization rate' as a good thing are merely distorting reality," Schooley said.

"In this viral surge we are seeing more tests being done but we are also seeing a higher percentage of those tests be positive. This indicates (that) more infection is the issue, not more testing," he said.

According to Schooley, the lower hospitalization and death rates reflect the fact that more of those being infected are younger people with fewer medical risk factors.

The recent surge in COVID-19 cases also led to record positive rates and hospitalizations. According to the CDC, 90,626 cases and 500 deaths from COVID-19 among healthcare personnel have been reported nationwide.

"As the epidemic surges, hospitals and ICUs (intensive care units) are, nonetheless, being stretched to capacity in Arizona, Texas, Alabama and elsewhere. The number of deaths will rise if the epidemic is not brought into check," Schooley said.

The COVID-19 model produced by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington has estimated 179,106 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States by Oct. 1.

Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government's top infectious-diseases expert, warned that the daily increase in COVID-19 cases in the United States could go up to 100,000 if the current trend "does not turn around."

"Behavior in real time is what drives the future and, as behavior changes, the models change," Schooley told Xinhua.

(ASIA PACIFIC DAILY)

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