35% of people infected with COVID-19 show no symptoms, according to CDC's 'best estimate'

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta. The CDC says about a third of people infected with coronavirus in the U.S. are asymptomatic. - Dreamstime/Dreamstime/TNS

About a third of people infected with coronavirus in the U.S. are asymptomatic, according to newly released guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response have developed five different planning scenarios to help public health officials making coronavirus decisions based on mathematical modeling.

To determine each scenario, the CDC looks at “measures of viral transmissibility, disease severity and pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic disease transmission.”

An “asymptomatic case” means that an individual infected with the virus “does not exhibit symptoms during the course of infection.”

According to the most updated information, and under CDC’s “best estimate about viral transmission and disease severity in the United States,” the agency believes that 35% of people infected by the coronavirus show no symptoms — but are nonetheless capable of spreading the virus.

The agency also estimates that — under that same scenario — about 0.4% of people who contract the virus will die from it.

According to the CDC’s worst-case scenario, the case fatality rate jumps to 1%.

Carl T. Bergstrom, a biologist with the University of Washington, says the numbers are too optimistic.

“With guidance from this newly released CDC document, federal agencies are modeling the COVID pandemic using implausibly low fatality rate,” he tweeted.

“As I see it, the ‘best estimate’ is extremely optimistic, and the ‘worst case’ scenario is fairly optimistic even as a best estimate. One certainly wants to consider worse scenarios,” Bergstrom, an expert in modeling and computer simulations, told CNN.

Under CDC’s best scenario, 3.4% of infected people will require hospitalization, a figure that substantially rises for the elderly population: 7.4% of individuals 65 and older will need to be treated at a hospital.

The agency also noted that 40% of coronavirus transmissions occur before people get sick.


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