NYC Survey Suggests 14% of the Population already Infected with COVID-19; Much Lower Mortality Rate

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In a very limited survey, one NYC hospital found 13.7% of pregnant women who came in to give birth were infected with COVID-19; almost 90% of which were asymptomatic.

After two pregnant women scheduled for delivery were found to be COVID-19 positive after being admitted to the hospital, doctors “implemented universal testing… to detect SARS-CoV-2 infection in women who were admitted for delivery,” according to a Letter to the Editor written by the doctors at the hospital. This being the closest the United States has gotten to a random, serological study in which a random group of the population is tested for Coronavirus in order to see how widespread the virus truly is. Typically, the subset of the population being test is biased in that people who are already experiencing symptoms or knowingly came into contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 self select to be tested. Because this hospital tests every pregnant woman, and there’s little evidence so far to suggest they are any more or less likely to contract the disease, this survey could provide helpful insight into the spread of the virus.

In a letter to New England Journal of Medicine, doctors said their results were from tests done on the 215 women being admitted to the hospital between March 22 and April 4, 2020 for childbirth.

Of the 215 women tested, 4 (1.9%) were showing symptoms upon admission. All eventually tested positive for COVID-19. Of the remaining 211 women, 210 were tested where 29 (13.7%) of the asymptomatic women also tested positive. Based on these numbers, 88% of infected pregnant women who were admitted to the hospital were asymptomatic carriers. Three women later developed a fever during their stay at the hospital.

While the authors of the letter say “this prevalence has limited generalizability to geographic regions with lower rates of infection,” they do note that total COVID-19 numbers could be greatly underreported.

This testing is the closest to a random sample of New Yorkers – the state most seriously hit by the pandemic – that healthcare professionals have done. Though, again, it’s very small and isolated sample.

What’s most surprising is that these numbers mirror a German study of infection rates. German researchers tested 80% of the population of the Town of Gangelt and found 15% of the residents had either been infected or gotten over the illness. The similarity in outcomes between these two distinct areas might be coincidental, or it could be a trend worth noting.

Approximately 1.5% of NYC population has tested positive for Coronavirus, and of those cases, approximately 7% have died. If the number of infected people were actually 13.7%, not 1.5%, that would bring the mortality rate down to 0.7%, much lower than previously estimated.

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