News and Commentary

Most Americans Have Been Infected With COVID-19, Even If They Didn’t Know It, New CDC Study Finds
High angle view of young woman painting with roller on red COVID-19 virus over white background
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COVID-19 is an odd virus; if you catch it, it can kill you, or you might never even know you had it.

A new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that a majority of Americans, both adults and children, have been infected with COVID-19.

Nearly 60% of adults and about 75% of children have coronavirus antibodies, indicating that they had been infected with COVID-19 and its variants, according to data collected from a study of blood samples across the country. That’s a huge rise from December 2021, when just 34% of Americans had COVID-19 antibodies.

“As of February 2022, approximately 75% of children and adolescents had serologic evidence of previous infection with SARS-CoV-2, with approximately one third becoming newly seropositive since December 2021,” the report says.

But researchers aren’t sure how long those antibodies are effective in keeping people from catching the virus or one of its variants a second time.

“We still do not know how long infection-induced immunity will last, and we cannot know from the study, again, whether all people who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies continue to have protection from their prior infection,” said Dr. Kristie Clarke, who led the study for the CDC.

The number of immune Americans is even higher when you throw in those who have been vaccinated.

One scientific model for COVID-19 cases released in February estimated that some 73% of Americans were currently immune to Omicron, according to a report.

“About half of eligible Americans have received booster shots, there have been nearly 80 million confirmed infections overall and many more infections have never been reported,” according to the Associated Press.

“We have changed,” Ali Mokdad, a professor at the University of Washington, told the wire service. “We have been exposed to this virus and we know how to deal with it.”

“‘I am optimistic even if we have a surge in summer, cases will go up, but hospitalizations and deaths will not,’ said Mokdad, who works on the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model, which calculated the 73% figure for The Associated Press,” the AP wrote.

But the once dreamed-about idea of “herd immunity” — when enough of a population has been exposed to a single virus and built up immunity, which eventually ends its spread — does not seem possible as SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, keeps mutating into different variants. Omicron is the latest, but while it is more infectious, data shows that the strain is far less lethal.

The new numbers mean America is approaching “herd immunity,” even as some researchers say the virus is here to stay. Early on in the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. immunologist, put the number at 60% to 70%, but later started upping that number, saying in an interview with CNBC News that it would be “75, 80, 85 percent.”

But by May 2021, experts began saying we may never reach herd immunity. “Instead, they are coming to the conclusion that rather than making a long-promised exit, the virus will most likely become a manageable threat that will continue to circulate in the United States for years to come, still causing hospitalizations and deaths but in much smaller numbers,” The New York Times reported.

Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent, and ran the Drudge Report from 2010 to 2015. Send tips to and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.