FRESNO, California (KSEE) – A recent study by the medical journal The BMJ reported that there are instances where 80% of positive COVID-19 tests came from asymptomatic people. But in the Central Valley, health officials do not know how many are not showing symptoms.
In most local counties it is too early to tell – especially with the lack of testing – but officials are shifting their focus wanting to know just how many potentially contagious people are out there.
“Up until recently, we were not able to test people who were asymptomatic,” said Merced County supervising epidemiologist Kristynn Sullivan. “Even if they had a known exposure to someone with COVID or something of that nature because we just didn’t have enough testing kits.”
With more swabs coming in, Merced County opened up testing to the public. Around 10% of those positive cases asymptomatic.
In Kings County, close to two hundred meatpacking employees were infected with the virus.
“We had quite a few people that got impacted at first,” said Kings County Supervisor Doug Verboon. “They were all asymptomatic and didn’t have any signs of it so no one knew they were sick”
With many getting people getting back to work, Tulare County’s Carrie Monteiro says a silent spread is a concern. That is why county officials set up two testing centers in the county specifically for asymptomatic patients. Many of those results are coming back negative.
“They have exhibited symptoms or they have been contacted or notified that they have been exposed to someone who tested positive,” said Monteiro.
Health officials in Fresno and Madera counties are also unclear on the percentage of asymptomatic patients. They hope a future antibody test will provide a clearer picture.