By: Mark Glennon*
Why does Illinois continue to refuse to collect and publish antibody testing data?
A new state-funded study in North Carolina probably tells us why: The virus is far more prevalent and more harmless than commonly reported.
“We can say that 10 to 20 times the number of people who have an identified case have antibodies to the infection,” said the infections disease specialist who headed the study. Nearly 10 percent of people tested in North Carolina have antibodies to the coronavirus, the study indicates, based on random testing of over 5,000 people.
That’s huge. It means that vastly more people got infected but never got sick than are reported as “cases” in the way Illinois reports on the infection. It also means the true risk of dying is way lower than commonly reported — an infection death rate in the 0.1-0.15% range — according to Alex Berenson, a former New York Times reporter now focused on coronavirus. One-tenth of one-percent or less.
Antibody tests, which are different from tests for the infection itself, show who got infected but never got sick. We have long criticized Illinois’ refusal to do any antibody testing or to incorporate any antibody testing data into its analyses and projections.
Aside from indicating that the fatality rate is lower than reported, antibody tests show how much of the population probably has immunity for at least for several months. The testing would also give us more precise information about what demographic groups are truly most at risk and where we should concentrate containment efforts, as opposed to the one-size-fits-all emergency order we have in Illinois.
It’s inexcusable for Illinois to be ignoring antibody testing. Some tests on the market are known to have high error rates so there is legitimate concern about individuals using those tests to conclude they are immune. However, the FDA has confirmed that at least two tests on the market are 99% accurate and, in any event, researchers can adjust for error rates and the value of the research is an entirely different matter than personal use.
Illinois is not alone in this failure. The federal government has also been slow to support antibody research. A number of other states have done some research on their own, also finding high prevalence of antibodies, but funding has been in short supply, as reported by Reuters this week.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.