Over 20 million Americans have likely already had Covid-19, including millions of young people who were perhaps unaware they contracted the disease.
That’s according to the chief of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who said on Thursday that the actual number of Covid-19 cases could be roughly 10 times higher than the number of reported cases, which currently stands at 2.3 million.
"Our best estimate right now is that for every case that was reported, there actually were 10 other infections," CDC director Dr Robert Redfield said during a media telebriefing on Thursday.
"We probably recognized about 10 percent of the outbreak by the methods that we use to diagnosis between March, April, and May."
Despite the increase in number, Dr Redfield said they’re working on the premise that just 5-8 percent of the US population has been exposed, indicating that the vast majority of the country remains susceptible to catching the infection.
The news comes as the number of reported cases rose across the US by at least 39,818 on Thursday, June 25, the largest single-day increase since the start of the pandemic, according to Reuters. Many southern states — namely Florida and Texas — and California are currently experiencing a startling resurgence of cases.
Los Angeles County currently has the highest number of cases in the country with more than 89,500 cases, according to public health data. Texas is also struggling to cope with its skyrocketing cases as the state earned a grim new daily record on Thursday: 5,996 new cases. Florida also reported more than 5,000 new cases for the second day running on Thursday.
However, Dr Redfield suggests this increase in number might actually be a reflection of more extensive testing and diagnosing.
“In the past, I don’t think we diagnosed these infections,” he said. “In the past, we didn’t aggressively pursue diagnostics in young asymptomatic individuals. So, how much of what we’re seeing now was occurring [before] but was just unrecognized? Now we’re getting the younger population to get diagnosed.”
President Donald Trump had a similar explanation, tweeting on Thursday: “The number of ChinaVirus cases goes up, because of GREAT TESTING, while the number of deaths (mortality rate), goes way down. The Fake News doesn’t like telling you that!”
However, where Dr Redfield is advocating for more testing, indicating the more we know the better, the President asked health officials to "slow down" testing in a bid to reduce reported case numbers rather than slow transmission.
The Trump administration has been accused of burying its head in the sand in the face of worrying statistics and instead depicting an unrealistically optimistic assessment of the ongoing virus outbreak. President Trump even stated this week the virus was “fading away,” despite clear evidence the number of cases is on the rise.
“We’re very close to a vaccine and we’re very close to therapeutics, really good therapeutics,” Trump said Wednesday night in a television interview with Fox News. “But even without that, I don’t even like to talk about that, because it’s fading away, it’s going to fade away, but having a vaccine would be really nice and that’s going to happen.”