Addressing COVID-19 is a pressing health and social concern. To date, many epidemic projections and policies addressing COVID-19 have been designed without seroprevalence data to inform epidemic parameters. We measured the seroprevalence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in a community sample drawn from Santa Clara County.
On April 3-4, 2020, we tested county residents for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 using a lateral flow immunoassay. Participants were recruited using Facebook ads targeting a sample of individuals living within the county by demographic and geographic characteristics. We estimate weights to adjust our sample to match the zip code, sex, and race/ethnicity distribution within the county. We report both the weighted and unweighted prevalence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. We also adjust for test performance characteristics by combining data from 16 independent samples obtained from manufacturer’s data, regulatory submissions, and independent evaluations: 13 samples for specificity (3,324 specimens) and 3 samples for sensitivity (157 specimens).
The raw prevalence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in our sample was 1.5% (exact binomial 95CI 1.1-2.0%). Test performance specificity in our data was 99.5% (95CI 99.2-99.7%) and sensitivity was 82.8% (95CI 76.0-88.4%). The unweighted prevalence adjusted for test performance characteristics was 1.2% (95CI 0.7-1.8%). After weighting for population demographics of Santa Clara County, the prevalence was 2.8% (95CI 1.3-4.7%), using bootstrap to estimate confidence bounds. These prevalence point estimates imply that 54,000 (95CI 25,000 to 91,000 using weighted prevalence; 23,000 with 95CI 14,000-35,000 using unweighted prevalence) people were infected in Santa Clara County by early April, many more than the approximately 1,000 confirmed cases at the time of the survey.
The estimated population prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in Santa Clara County implies that the infection may be much more widespread than indicated by the number of confirmed cases. More studies are needed to improve precision of prevalence estimates. Locally-derived population prevalence estimates should be used to calibrate epidemic and mortality projections.