How Many People Are Actually Presymptomatic or Asymptomatic for Covid-19?

We asked the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County to help explain.

By Hannah Wallace August 6, 2020

Image: Shutterstock

Last week, we reported on Manatee County’s new mask resolution in light of a startling statistic: as much as 48 percent of Manatee County residents who are positive for Covid-19 may also be asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic, as reported by Dr. Jennifer Bencie, the Manatee County Health Officer for the Florida Department of Health. The sheer volume of people who have contracted the disease but show no signs of it serves to emphasize the importance that all citizens, regardless of symptoms, should wear a mask and practice all other recommended safety precautions in order to stem the spread of the disease.

We followed up with the Florida Department of Health-Manatee County for clarification on this figure. Communications director Christopher Tittel explained that the figure, which can change “almost hourly” as test reports come in and was closer to 45 percent on Thursday, comes from a direct comparison of the actual number of Covid-19 positive people who reported no symptoms versus the total number of Covid-19-positive cases in the county.

Furthermore, while the Florida Department of Health receives information regarding positive and negative tests, the information about symptoms is being collected at the local level by the county health department.

Here’s how testing works:

  • Testing sites collect a sample.
  • The sample is sent to a lab.
  • The lab determines whether the sample is positive or negative.
  • The lab sends positive/negative information back to the patient and their healthcare provider, as well as to the Florida Department of Health for tracking purposes.
  • The Florida Department of Health-Manatee County has then been contacting people who’ve tested positive in the county and asking them about their symptoms.
  • Right now, approximately 45 percent of those who’ve been contacted have reported no symptoms, meaning that they are either asymptomatic or have yet to develop symptoms from Covid-19.
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