The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that it is likely that most Americans have been infected with COVID-19. Researchers analyzed data from September 2021 through February 2022 and estimated that at least 60% of the population had COVID antibodies, meaning they had fought off an infection of the virus. They noted that antibodies from vaccines are different than those produced from a coronavirus infection.
The agency cited the research and estimated that over 200 million people in the United States have had COVID as of February 2022. That number is much higher than the official tally of cases, which stands at nearly 81 million as of April 26.
The study found that the number of people with COVID antibodies in their blood spiked after December when the Omicron variant began spreading across the country. They also noticed a sharp uptick in the number of children who were infected with COVID-19, likely because many had not yet received the vaccines.
“By February 2022, evidence of previous Covid-19 infections substantially increased among every age group,” Dr. Kristie Clarke, the agency researcher who led the study, said at a news briefing.
Despite the rise in reported cases, the number of severe infections and hospitalization did not increase at the same rate.
Clarke said that a previous infection is not a substitute for getting vaccinated because health experts are still trying to determine how long natural immunity lasts.
“We still do not know how long infection-induced immunity will last,” Dr. Clarke said.