A new study suggests that coronavirus may be completely asymptomatic in a significant number of infected people. This could help explain the recent surge of reported cases in the U.S., which were up more than 14,000 on Wednesday, according to CNN.
The information is based on testing results in Iceland, which as of Tuesday has tested nearly 18,000 people, roughly 5 percent of its total population. About half of them are conducted by the biopharma company deCODE, which has a screening program that "accepts everybody who is not showing symptoms and not currently in quarantine," per a statement from Iceland's Directorate of Health. Of those 9,000 deCODE tests, 1 percent came back positive. However, half of them showed no symptoms associated with coronavirus whatsoever.
"What it means in my mind, is that because we are screening the general population, we are catching people early in the infection before they start showing symptoms," deCODE founder Dr. Kári Stefánsson told the outlet on Wednesday. Iceland's Directorate of Health also emphasized that the screenings are randomized, meaning "there is some bias in the data."
In an interview with NPR, CDC Director Robert Redfield said the situation might be similar in the U.S.
"Information that we have pretty much confirmed now is that a significant number of individuals that are infected actually remain asymptomatic," Redfield explained. "That may be as many as 25 percent."
These new revelations are part of the federal government kicking around the idea of encouraging people to incorporate masks into their social distancing routines whenever going out for essential goods. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the coronavirus response team, has mulled whether to formally encourage their use, but at a press conference on Monday said they would do so only "if we do not have the problem of taking away masks from the health care workers who need them."
On Sunday, President Donald Trump formally extended the social distancing guidelines through the month of April in an effort to further help the spread. This includes working from home if possible, avoiding social gatherings and staying six feet away from everyone who's not a member of your immediate household.
According to Johns Hopkins University, there are 206,207 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in The U.S., making up more than 20 percent of the 921,924 cases worldwide. They also offer a number of recommendations on what individuals can do to stay safe and healthy during this time.