A Little More Light in a Vast Sea of Viral Darkness?


Almost every day, more studies, strange data, anecdotal reporting, and theories emerge about the virus, many of which could change existing conventional wisdom. In discussions about the nature of any existing sero-prevalence in California, and about how even apparently small percentages of those already infected in the population could radically alter rates of epidemic and mortality modeling, this early abstract of a recent study could be of interest. It was co-reported by a rather large team of 16 distinguished researchers conducting an early assessment of their recent antibody testing in Santa Clara County.

They and their publisher cite customary caution due to the preliminary nature of the “unrefereed preprint” of their findings. e.g., “This article is a preprint and has not been certified by peer review.” (What does this mean?) “It reports new medical research that has yet to be evaluated and so should not be used to guide clinical practice.” But the concluding paragraph of the abstract could become of interest in its implications for both state and federal policy, especially when the data of such research are finished being peer reviewed and, if substantiated, and the findings possibly replicated in future such studies:

These prevalence estimates represent a range between 48,000 and 81,000 people infected in Santa Clara County by early April, 50-85-fold more than the number of confirmed cases. Conclusions: The population prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in Santa Clara County implies that the infection is much more widespread than indicated by the number of confirmed cases. Population prevalence estimates can now be used to calibrate epidemic and mortality projections. (Emphasis added.)

If one were to use these parameters of cases to recalibrate with the known deaths in Santa Clara County from the SARS-CoV-2 virus (increased to 69 as of yesterday), or if their percentages represented the epidemic in the state at large, then the results in a variety of ways could shed some light on, and context about, the ongoing mystery of California’s supposed number of cases and apparent fatalities to the virus (28,000 cases and 973 deaths in a state of 40 million), while suggesting that perhaps many more coastal Californians, or Californians in general, or perhaps even Americans, have previously been infected by the virus than we had heretofore imagined (with many either unaware or not overly concerned by that fact).

In fairness to the researchers, we outside the medical research community should remember the warning referenced in the study to journalists concerning the preliminary nature of the results:

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We also urge journalists and other individuals who report on medical research to the general public to consider this when discussing work that appears on medRxiv preprints and emphasize it has yet to be evaluated by the medical community and the information presented may be erroneous.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Case for Trump.

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