LA County Will Begin Random Coronavirus Testing Today

We're all wearing masks these days, but how much is it helping?Kevin Drum

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Los Angeles will start testing residents for COVID-19 antibodies today. But that’s not the big news:

Starting Friday, county health officials will begin testing the blood of 1,000 randomly selected residents, including those with no symptoms, to see if they have or had COVID-19. Using emerging technology that tests for antibodies to a virus, the study has the potential to shed light on the true mortality rate of the coronavirus, the efficacy of social distancing efforts and when this unprecedented clampdown on daily life could end.

….The research aims to fill in a number of blanks about COVID-19, including how deadly the disease truly is — a figure that is difficult to pin down without knowing how many people have the virus, said Neeraj Sood, a professor and vice dean for research at USC’s Price School of Public Policy, who worked with the county on the study.

A random test will finally give us an idea of how widespread the coronavirus really is. All we know now is the number of “confirmed cases,” which is wildly unreliable since it depends on how widespread testing is in each country. Random tests wil provide a much more accurate measure, including people who never had any symptoms and therefore never got tested.

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Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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