A nurse demonstrates a COVID-19 swab test at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. (Johannes Eisele / AFP via Getty Images)
One in seven American adults (14%) say they have tested positive for COVID-19 or are fairly sure they have had it even though they have not received an official diagnosis, according to a Pew Research Center survey from August 3 to 16. The survey also reveals a sharp increase since the spring of Americans who say they know someone else who has been hospitalized or has died from COVID-19.
Overall, 3% of American adults say they have personally tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the survey. This includes 2% who say they tested positive for an active viral infection, a share that matches available public health data, and 1% who did not test positive for the virus, but then tested positive for the virus. his antibodies, a sign of a past infection. Another 11% of adults say they’re pretty sure they’ve had the virus even though they haven’t been officially diagnosed. (It’s important to keep in mind that these results are based on self-reported information.)
Some groups of Americans are more likely than others to say they have personally tested positive for COVID-19. For example, a greater proportion of Hispanics (7%) and Black Americans (5%) report having tested positive for COVID-19 or its antibodies than their White (2%) or Asian (1%) counterparts.
The Pew Research Center conducted this study to better understand the effects on personal health of the coronavirus epidemic. The data was collected as part of a larger survey conducted August 3 to 16, 2020 among 13,200 American adults. All of those who participated are members of the Centers American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel recruited by nationwide random sampling of residential addresses. This way almost all American adults have a chance to be selected. The survey is weighted to be representative of the adult American population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education, and other categories. Learn more about the ATP methodology.
Here are the questions used for this analysis, along with the answers and its methodology.
Americans in low-income families have also been disproportionately affected, with 5% reporting having received at least one positive test result, compared with 2% of adults living in middle- and high-income households.
An educational gap is also apparent. Among adults with a university education or less, 4% report having had a test-confirmed case of COVID-19 twice as high as those with a bachelor’s degree or above (2%).
The survey also asked Americans if anyone else in their household had tested positive for COVID-19 or was pretty sure they had the virus despite not having been officially diagnosed. . Overall, 14% of U.S. adults say they live with someone who has tested positive or is fairly sure they have the virus.
Most report mild or no symptoms
Nearly half (45%) of those who say they have personally tested positive for the coronavirus or its antibodies or who are fairly sure they have had COVID-19 say they have had mild symptoms, while 17% say have not experienced any symptoms. About three in ten (29%) describe their symptoms as moderate and 9% describe them as severe.
The trend is similar among those who say that another member of the household is at least fairly sure they have had COVID-19. About four in ten of those Americans say the other person in their household has experienced mild symptoms (38%) and 17% report no symptoms. Some 36% report moderate symptoms and 9% say their household member had severe symptoms.
Sharp increase in knowledge of a person who has been hospitalized or died from COVID-19
The August survey also found that about four in ten Americans (39%) say they know someone who has been hospitalized or died of COVID-19 versus 20% who said so at the end. April and early May, the last time Pew Research Center asked this question. (Not all of the questions asked in the spring survey are directly comparable to those in the August survey.)
A majority of black Americans (57%) say they personally know someone who has been hospitalized or has died from COVID-19. Some 46% of Hispanic adults say the same thing, compared to about a third of white (34%) and Asian (32%) adults. The proportion of Hispanic Americans who know someone who has been hospitalized or who died from COVID-19 has more than doubled since the spring survey, when 19% said so.
There have also been regional changes in the proportion of adults who know someone who has been hospitalized or who has died from the virus. In the spring, Americans in the Northeast (31%) were more likely than those in the Midwest (22%), South (18%) and West (13%) to say they knew someone personally who had been hospitalized or who had died from the virus. Now, it is just as common for southerners to know someone hospitalized or deceased as it is for those in the Northeast to say so (43% vs. 46%, a statistical tie). In the August survey, about a third (35%) of the Midwesterns and 30% of those in the West say they personally know someone who has been hospitalized or has died from COVID-19.
Note: The following are the questions used for this analysis, along with the answers and its methodology.
Stephanie Kramer is a research associate specializing in religion at the Pew Research Center.
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