1 in 8 Americans got COVID-19 infection by October 2020

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In a new study, researchers found that one in eight residents of the United States—more than 39 million people—had been infected with SARS-CoV-2 by the end of October 2020.

The research was conducted by a team at Emory University

In the study, participants were randomly selected from a U.S. Postal Service database and sent invitations to provide samples.

More than 4,600 people completed surveys and returned samples to a central laboratory by mail.

The team found that people living in metropolitan areas were 2.5 times more likely to have been infected than those living in non-metropolitan areas.

Roughly one in six of those infected at some point had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and reported to health departments, based on comparison with CDC reports.

In addition, in a survey of participants’ attitudes toward vaccination, the study found that 32 percent said they were unsure or unwilling to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

The overall findings were: 12% Very Unlikely, 7% Somewhat Unlikely, 13% Unsure, 19% Likely, and 50% Very Likely.

Many population groups at higher risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection were more likely to be unsure or unwilling: Black vs White (46 vs 30 percent), people working outside the home vs those working at home (38 vs 21 percent), and smokers vs nonsmokers (44 vs 29 percent).

The surveys were completed from August to December 2020, overlapping with national news about the success of early vaccine clinical trials.

The team says these findings demonstrate both a challenge and an opportunity for public health because most of those who said they were unsure or unlikely to be vaccinated were not strongly opposed to vaccination.

One author of the study is Patrick Sullivan, DVM, Ph.D.

The study was presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections.

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