UC Irvine study reveals higher prevalence of COVID-19 in Orange County than previously thought

Pedestrians wearing face masks walk along the strand in Huntington Beach.
Pedestrians wearing face masks walk along the strand in Huntington Beach.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

UC Irvine researchers announced this week that 11.5% of a study sample of Orange County residents had antibodies to the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, indicating that the virus is likely much more prevalent in the county than previously believed.

The original estimate was less than 2%.

According to this data, about 370,000 residents have been infected with the virus.

The UC Irvine study also found that Latino and low-income residents have been hit hardest by the virus. Antibodies were found in 17% of Latino residents and 15% of low-income residents.

It has been well-documented that the Latino community, particularly in Santa Ana and Anaheim, has been taking the brunt of the pandemic.

The study, accomplished in collaboration with the Orange County Health Care Agency, analyzed the blood of close to 3,000 residents.

Matt Zahn, medical director of the agency’s Communicable Disease Control Division, said at a Zoom press conference on Wednesday that the countywide findings were not all that surprising.

It’s unclear what the unnamed diabolical ironclad beetle thought when it was run over by a Toyota Camry.

“I think this illustrates really two really important points to me,” Zahn said. “One is that because we know that asymptomatic infection or very mild infection happens, and that spread can happen from those persons, simple contact-tracing by itself isn’t enough to contain this virus.

“We have to take broader social-distancing measures, mask wearing, social distancing in order to contain the spread of this virus. Again, I think that the other point I take from it is while the prevalence of infection is higher than what we’ve identified previously, we’re still far from herd immunity.”

According to the O.C. Health Care Agency data, there have been 59,442 cases of COVID-19 and 1,468 deaths.

Bernadette Boden-Albala, director of UCI’s Program in Public Health, said researchers still need to try to better understand the protection of COVID-19 antibodies and identify and address the disparities caused by the virus.

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