The underestimate mostly stems from rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests, the results of which don’t automatically get reported to health departments. But missed cases have also surely come from asymptomatic infections that didn’t prompt testing, lack of access to testing or people choosing not to test at all.
“We surpassed 100 million cases a long time ago,” Beth Blauer of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center said in a post. “We’re missing a lot more.”
The 100 million number would mean that less than a third of the U.S. population has gotten COVID-19. But in reality, the majority of Americans have gotten the virus, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By February, over 57% of Americans had antibodies from previous coronavirus infection, according to CDC estimates – a figure that does not include those who might be carrying antibodies from the vaccine or reinfections. That would equate to about 188 million Americans.
Since February, the CDC has recorded more than 20 million more infections, making the current total over 200 million.
The milestone comes as the COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise in the U.S., likely fueled by the highly contagious XBB omicron subvariant. The majority of the U.S. is experiencing high levels of coronavirus transmission, according to the CDC, and more infections are expected following gatherings over the holidays.
The Biden administration has pushed the updated COVID-19 booster shots that target omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 as well as the original coronavirus strain as a way to combat a potential winter wave of coronavirus in the U.S. But uptake of the shot has been lower than experts had hoped, with less than 15% of eligible Americans getting the shot.