A new report by a group of University of Texas at Austin researchers shows COVID-19 cases are largely spreading undetected.
Spencer J. Fox helped write the report. He is a statistical epidemiology research associate at UT Austin. He says COVID-19 cases are going undetected because many individuals do not seek testing because they are either asymptomatic or have mild symptoms and because of the shortage of COVID-19 tests.
Fox says the goal of the new report is to inform county health officials who are weighing the economic costs of shutdowns against potential public health costs.
“Our report is helping them make that decision by saying that, even if you’re not seeing that many cases, you’re seeing one or two cases in your county, it’s more likely than not that you have underlying community transmission,” Fox says.
The report concludes there is a 9% chance that community-wide spread is occurring even in a county with no confirmed cases of COVID-19.
“I think at this point in time, if you are a county public health official who has not enacted stringent, non-pharmaceutical interventions in your region, our study helps you understand that there is still a risk for community spread even if you haven’t seen detected cases,” Fox says. “And by the time you see one or two cases, it may already be to the point that you have widespread community transmission.”
Written by Laura Rice.