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Coronavirus In LA Might Be More Widespread And Less Deadly Than We Thought

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A new study that tested adults for antibodies to COVID-19 indicates it's much more widespread in Los Angeles County than previously thought — but it's also less deadly.

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Researchers from USC and L.A. County Public Health estimate that approximately 4% of the county's adult population have antibodies to the virus, which means they’ve already been infected. Factoring in the margin of error, that's somewhere between 221,000 and 442,000 people.

As of today, there are just under 14,000 confirmed cases in the county.

The preliminary findings mean, "We are very early in the epidemic and many more people in L.A. County could potentially be infected," said lead investigator Dr. Neeraj Sood, professor and senior fellow at USC's Price School for Public Policy.

The substantially higher estimate of cases suggests the mortality rate for the county is much lower than the current 4.4%, said County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer. She pegged it at closer to .1% or .2%. The mortality rate for the seasonal flu is .1%, according to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci.

The current method for tracking the spread of COVID-19 is to directly test for the presence of the virus in each patient. This new antibody study seeks to determine whether an individual ever had the coronavirus, even if they never developed any symptoms.

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Ferrer cautioned that being positive for COVID-19 antibodies does not ensure a person is immune. More research is needed on that front.

The study tested a demographically-representative group of 863 adults. Researchers intend to repeat the test several times in the coming months.

Here are the highlights from today’s county update:

  • There were an additional 1,491 positive cases (Note: 1,198 of these positive cases are from a testing backlog; 293 are new).
  • The total number of cases in L.A. County is now 13,816.
  • There were an additional 17 deaths, bringing the county total to 617.

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Study: Roughly 4% Of LA County Adults Have Had Coronavirus

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