U.S. Adults Say They're Pretty Sure They Had COVID-19 Without Proper Test


One-in-seven U.S. adults (14%) say they have tested positive for COVID-19 or are “pretty sure” they have had it despite not receiving an official diagnosis, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Aug. 3 to 16. The survey also finds a sharp increase since the spring in the share of Americans who say they know someone else who has been hospitalized or died due to COVID-19.

Overall,3% of U.S. adults say they have personally tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the survey. That includes 2% who say they tested positive for an active viral infection – a share that comports with available public health data – and 1% who did not receive a positive test for the virus, but later tested positive for its antibodies, a sign of past infection. Another 11% of adults say they are pretty sure they have had the virus even though they were not officially diagnosed. (It’s important to keep in mind that these findings are based on self-reported information.)

The survey also asked Americans whether someone else in their household tested positive for COVID-19 or are pretty sure they have had the virus despite not receiving an official diagnosis. Overall,14% of U.S. adults say they live with someone who has tested positive or been pretty sure they had 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 are pretty sure they had COVID-19 – say they experienced mild symptoms, while another 17% say they experienced no symptoms. Around three-in-ten (29%) describe their symptoms as moderate and 9% describe them as severe.

The pattern is similar among those who say another household member is at least pretty sure they had COVID-19. Around four-in-ten of these Americans say the other person in their household experienced mild symptoms (38%) and 17% report no symptoms. Some 36% report moderate symptoms and 9% say their fellow household member had severe symptoms.

Sharp increase in knowing someone who has been hospitalized or died due to COVID-19

The August survey also finds that around four-in-ten Americans (39%) say they know someone who has been hospitalized or died as a result of having COVID-19 – up from 20% who said this in late April and early May, the last time Pew Research Center asked this question. 

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