Early indications from a University of Miami survey to measure the true infection rate of the new coronavirus across Miami-Dade County suggest a higher infection rate than detected by state health officials.
WLRN is here for you, even when life is unpredictable. Local journalists are working hard to keep you informed on the latest developments across South Florida. Please support this vital work. Become a WLRN member today. Thank you.
About 85 percent of people contacted this week for the pilot survey responded, said UM cancer researcher Erin Kobetz.
“This is huge for a surveillance effort and we are encouraged by the community’s response,” she said in a text message.
The pool surveyed is too small for researchers to accurately interpret the results, she said. But they can “safely infer that the numbers of individuals who are infected with [COVID-19] is far greater than the number,” of cases being recorded by the Florida Department of Health. As of Friday, health officials were reporting 6,064 residents and 55 non-residents had tested positive in Miami-Dade.
The sampling also suggests a large number of people who test positive for COVID-19 antibodies do not feel symptoms for the first week or two after they’ve been infected, she said.
UM and Miami-Dade County began the sampling this week. Over the next four weeks, UM medical students will be calling residents picked by demographic parameters and geography. They hope to test 750 residents each week, who will be asked to visit one of 10 testing centers.
Testing for antibodies is intended to provide a better measure of the infection rate than results collected at testing centers, where patients have to be experiencing symptoms or older than 65. Results may also detect infection clusters where additional safety or health measures need to be taken.
By figuring out who may be infected and asymptomatic, Kobetz said, they can also determine who may be at risk of infecting others.
Actual testing begins on Tuesday, she said.