Louisville COVID-19 infection rate likely higher than reported, per UofL study

Published: Dec. 23, 2020 at 7:51 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The COVID-19 infection rate in Jefferson County could be much higher than what is being reported, according to results from the latest round of studies by the University of Louisville’s Co-Immunity Project.

The study began in May with a goal to determine the true presence of COVID-19 in Jefferson County. In the most recent round, scientists and doctors focused on the south side of Louisville from Dec. 10 to Dec. 14.

Researchers with the Co-Immunity Project selected a random sample of 700 people and tested them with both the COVID-19 test to see if they were infected with the virus and a test for antibodies to determine if they had ever had the virus before. The results showed the highest infection levels since the pandemic began, despite declining reported case numbers statewide.

“The decrease (in case numbers) with the metro data and the state data may be misleading,” Dr. Aruni Bhatnagar, a professor of medicine at the University of Louisville said.

Bhatnagar told WAVE 3 News the results showed about 3.7% of the 700 south Louisville participants had an active coronavirus infection. When researchers loosely applied that information to the entire city, they estimated around 28,000 Louisville residents may have been infected between November and December.

According to the study, most infected patients were between 18 and 34 years old.

According to antibody results in the Louisville study, researchers estimate around 73,000 people may have had the virus at some point since the beginning of the pandemic, which is a much higher rate than the reported 49,514.

“If we do a random evaluation, we find a totally different picture,” Bhatnagar said. “That picture is that there’s a lot of infection there, but it’s not among people who are vulnerable to get hospital admissions and die from the virus.”

Bhatnagar told WAVE 3 News the public should continue to practice social distancing and mask wearing, especially over the holidays.

“I think that we might come to a peak by the end of this year, or early next year, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel, so a few months of forbearance would be very, very important,” Bhatnagar said.

Researchers plan to conduct a fourth round of the Co-Immunity Project in Jefferson County between Jan. 22 and Jan. 28.

To read more about the most recent results, click here.

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