- CDC Director Robert Redfield told reporters on Thursday that the number of Americans who had been infected with the novel coronavirus was probably 10 times higher than the official count.
- "Our best estimate right now is that for every case that's reported, there actually are 10 other infections," he told reporters.
- Redfield's admission echoes what researchers have been saying for months about the likelihood of a higher coronavirus count, particularly in countries with severe outbreaks.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, acknowledged Thursday that the number of Americans who had been infected with the novel coronavirus was probably 10 times higher than the official count.
Speaking with reporters, Redfield said more younger people were receiving diagnoses than in previous months, leading to higher reported numbers of coronavirus.
"Our best estimate right now is that for every case that's reported, there actually are 10 other infections," he told reporters.
As of Thursday, the CDC had recorded 2.3 million coronavirus cases and more than 121,000 deaths. But according to Redfield, the actual number of coronavirus cases could be well above 20 million.
He said that in the past, health officials did not effectively diagnose the coronavirus in people under 50 who did not require hospitalization. He also said officials didn't "aggressively pursue diagnostics in young asymptomatic individuals."
"I think obviously we're seeing right now infections that are targeting younger individuals," Redfield said, adding that those people still posed a major risk of transmitting the disease onto others.
"I remain concerned about trying to understand the effective public-health messaging that we need to get to those individuals that are under the age of 35 or 40 — where the impact and consequences of COVID-19 on them may not be highly associated with hospitalization and death," he added. "They do act as a transmission connector for individuals that could be at higher risk."
"How much of what we're seeing now was occurring and was just unrecognized?" he said.
The director said the CDC would "continue to do extensive surveillance throughout the nation using antibody testing."
He added that while the number of coronavirus cases across the US appeared to be increasing as states lifted their lockdown restrictions, there were "probably" only about 110 to 120 counties, known as coronavirus hot spots, where the CDC considers there to be "significant transmission."
"That represents about 3% of the counties in the US," he said.
Redfield's acknowledgment echoes what researchers have been saying for months about the likelihood of a higher coronavirus count, particularly in countries with severe outbreaks.
"Really nobody knows," Elizabeth Halloran, a biostatistician at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington, told Business Insider's Aria Bendix in April. "A lot of people have been missed."
A study published Monday in the journal Science estimated that 8.7 million people in the US might have had the coronavirus just during March 8-28, meaning millions may have gone undiagnosed. Only 100,000 cases were officially recorded during that time.
But despite the disparity in the official coronavirus count, numerous counts indicate that the number of coronavirus cases in the US continues to rise. On Thursday, the number of new coronavirus cases rose by at least 39,818, the largest single-day increase of the virus since the start of the pandemic.