Nearly a third of El Pasoans surveyed have coronavirus antibodies, according to preliminary study results released Monday — the highest rate of the six parts of the state studied.
Twenty-nine percent of residents surveyed in El Paso’s trauma service area, which includes El Paso, Hudspeth and Culberson counties, have antibodies indicating a recent coronavirus infection. The Dallas and San Antonio areas followed with 27% and 26% of residents testing positive for COVID-19 antibodies.
The findings suggest that almost 240,000 people have been infected with the novel coronavirus in El Paso County, almost double the 127,000 positive tests reported by public health officials. Scientists have long said official totals understate the actual spread of the virus because people with no or few symptoms often don’t get tested.
Between 14% and 24% of Texans have antibodies, researchers with the Texas Department of State Health Services and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston estimate based on nearly 7,000 patient surveys and 78,500 blood samples analyzed since September.
“This is definitely one piece of the puzzle in trying to understand herd immunity,” said Kristina Mena, dean of the UTHealth School of Public Health El Paso campus. “As more people become vaccinated, and we have those numbers, that will be another piece for us to estimate when enough people have become immune and how will that impact the likelihood of transmission in the state and within the different communities.”
The findings indicate far more asymptomatic and undiagnosed cases than reported in the official counts.
About 15% of El Paso County’s population has contracted COVID-19 since last March, according to El Paso Department of Public Health data. Statewide, 8% of the population has tested positive, DSHS figures show.