Letters to the Editor: Why the Stanford blood antibody study might not be very useful

Hoover Tower at Stanford University. The school recently conducted a study on the prevalence of coronavirus infection in Santa Clara County.
(Philip Pacheco / Getty Images)

To the editor: It makes for a compelling headline. But the reality is, the Santa Clara County COVID-19 study is so profoundly flawed that its conclusions are meaningless.

Study participants self-selected, primarily by responding to ads on Facebook. It is intuitively obvious that people who had symptoms in the recent past would be more likely to choose to participate.

Study authors acknowledged this potential bias but threw up their hands and ignored it. They actually did collect data on recent symptoms, but they not only failed to publish any analysis of these data, they concealed them by omitting the information from tables with the rest of the data.


Commentary on the pre-print copy online makes it clear that this bias could easily have skewed the results by a factor of five or 10. As a result, even after this study, we still know effectively nothing at all about the prevalence of infection in the studied population.

Accordingly, the best response to this study is to ignore it. It is not fit for any public policy or planning purpose.

Tom Shanley, Newbury Park


To the editor: Thank you for the informative article on the San Francisco Bay Area blood antibody study.

However, based on the data in the article, it seems that the print edition headline, “Bay Area blood study suggests a vastly higher infection total,” could have been replaced with, “Bay Area blood study suggests a significantly lower mortality rate.”

I would encourage you to resist the temptation to put the bleakest interpretation of the data in large font at the head of your articles.


Fred Linkchorst, La Crescenta