More data is emerging about coronavirus infections and it is getting fuzzier instead of more informative.

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Our political leaders have led us to believe they have incredible knowledge about the coronavirus, including how we get sick, how many are sick, transmission vectors, spread rates, etc. etc. As time passes there is an increasing amount of data that suggests the understanding of the virus is fuzzier than we have been told.

Merely a few of the recent articles pointing out the uncertainty surrounding the virus:

  • Officials across Europe (and New York City) are not able to figure out how most people catch the bug.
  • Estimated 1/5th of New York City residents were infected by early March, at the very beginning of the pandemic.
  • Estimated 1/8th of Orange County, California residents were infected by the end of the summer, far higher than the reported positive test rate.

11/15/20 – Wall Street Journal – As Covid-19 Surges, the Big Unknown Is Where People Are Getting Infected – Health authorities are having difficulty figuring out where people are catching the coronavirus.

Statistics on the percentage of cases that can be traced to a source:

  • 25% – Germany
  • 23% – Austria
  • 20% – Italy
  • 20% – France
  • 7% – Spain

In other words, officials only have the vaguest, foggiest idea on the transmission vectors.

In New York, the mayor’s office reports the following identified sources of infection (additional precision on stats from Wall Street Journal, 11/10/20, New York City’s Covid-19 Cases Rise at Alarming Rate) :

  • at least 10% – travel
  • 5% to 10% – gatherings
  • 5% – nursing homes or other institutional settings

The quoted official says the city cannot identify source of infection for

“The vast majority of the remainder – somewhere probably around 50% or more…”

11/5/20 – UPI – 20% of NYC residents had Covid-19 by early March, study says – Researchers went back and ran antibody test on 10,000 plasma samples from early in the pandemic. There was not enough testing capacity back then to do this level of analysis.

Based on the high level of positive results to the antibody test, they estimated 1.7 million people in New York City had already been infected. That puts infection rate at around 20%.

The vast difference between the people already infected and the number of known cases is due to either asymptomatic cases or people who had symptoms ranging from mild to moderate. In other words, no symptoms at all or it just seemed like a mild or moderate cold.

What that means is the infection was already out of control in the general population before steps were taken to control the spread and the economy was shut down.

(Ponder that for a moment: the virus was already running wild, completely out of control before “we” cratered the economy.)

In the current context of counting cases per 100,000 residents, that would put New York City at approximately 20,000 per 100,000.

The official infection rate as of 10/24/20 was 2,096 per 100,000.

10/28/20 – Orange County Registrar – Study finds 12% of Orange County residents had coronavirus by summer – another study calculated that 12% of blood samples in Orange County tested positive to the coronavirus antibody. Extending that infection rate indicates there were somewhere around 371,000 people infected in the county.

I’ve been tracking the daily stats for California, five SoCal counties, and cities near where I live since back in March. That means I’ve been tracking and graphing infection rates since very early in the pandemic.

That estimated infection of 371,000 people in the summer compares to 61,421 that have tested positive in the county as of 11/6/20.

Converting that to the standard methodology of measuring infection rates, that means Orange County had an infection rate of about 12,000 per 100,000 citizens in the summer.

As of 11/6/20, the official reported positive test results were 1,925 per 100,000.

Back on 8/31/20, which is a good approximation of the end of the summer, the cumulative reported positive test results were 1,147 per 100,000.

Study indicates the estimated infection rate in the summer (12,000) is approximately 10 times higher than the official tally (1,147) as of the end of the summer.

Implications

There are a variety of implications from the New York City and Orange County research.

One is that the vast majority of people who catch the bug are asymptomatic – they have no idea they were sick.

Also, massively more people have contracted the coronavirus than the public health officials have been able to identify.

Another implication is the coronavirus is radically more survivable than the public has been told.

Final thought – the reported positive test rates are probably unreliable, yet public policy in most states is based on that statistic.

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