RIVERSIDE, Calif. - A new study shows the coronavirus may have infected nearly three times the amount of Riverside County residents than the county is currently reporting.
Riverside was the first county in the country to mandate wearing a mask during the pandemic.
In February, American evacuees from Wuhan, China were sent to March Air Reserve Base for a two-week quarantine.
Health officials in Riverside County conducted antibody tests with a near 100-percent accurate rate over two weekends in July to properly plan for the pandemic.
Riverside County Public Health Laboratory Director Errin Rider helped lead the study along with a market research group that recruited a randomized sample of residents. They tested 1,700 of all ages based on the demographics of the county.
The results show the Southern California county could easily have tripled the number of current COVID-19 cases.
The greater majority of people tested negative for the virus. However, about 100 participants had COVID-19 antibodies, which stay in the blood long after the infection is over.
The results show a positivity rate of a little less than 6%, which equates to as many as 175,000 infections in Riverside.
“The information we got out of this study does provide a bit more information about how many people have potentially been exposed. That doesn’t mean the messaging or the precautions people are taking should change,” Rider said.
Rather, Rider says the results show the importance to wear a mask, sanitize and social distance even more.
“What we’re hoping is we have enough data in the study to start to do subgroup analysis of the different groups,” she added.
Participants filled out lengthy questionnaires, not just based on their age, race, but their habits, like how often they wash their hands in hopes to use that data to learn more about those exposed to and infected by the virus.
Rider says other counties including Orange are doing similar antibody studies in the area.