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Real Los Angeles Covid-19 infection rate could be DOZENS of times higher than official count, study suggests

Real Los Angeles Covid-19 infection rate could be DOZENS of times higher than official count, study suggests
The number of people infected with Covid-19 in Los Angeles County could be many times higher than official figures suggest, researchers say, warning that predictions and public health strategies need an overhaul.

Up to 442,000 adults living in Los Angeles County may have contracted the novel coronavirus, the University of Southern California has said after conducting Covid-19 antibodies tests on 863 people living in the area. These figures are “28 to 55 times higher” than the number of official confirmed cases known to the authorities at the time of the research in early April, the university’s statement says.

On Monday, the total number of confirmed cases among the population of roughly 10 million people in Los Angeles County stood at 12,300. The disease has also claimed 600 lives in the area.

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Lead investigator Neeraj Sood, professor of public policy at the USC Price School for Public Policy, said that the true scope of the virus spread in Los Angeles was not known, since only people with symptoms had been tested and the tests themselves were limited. The new data suggest the authorities “might have to recalibrate disease-prediction models and rethink public health strategies,” he added.

On the bright side, the study results also might suggest that the mortality rate linked to the novel coronavirus could, in fact, be lower than estimated. “The results indicate a lower risk of death among those with infection than was previously thought,” Paul Simon, chief science officer at the LA County Department of Public Health, who co-led the study, said. He still warned that “vigorous prevention and control efforts” are still needed as Covid-19-related deaths continue to “mount.”

The results of the study have not yet been per-reviewed and a time may come when antibody tests face criticism over the high number of false positives. The researchers now plan to further test new groups of people every few weeks over the coming months to confirm the initial results and possibly to track the outbreak's progress.

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