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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke March 11, 2020

An epidemiologist projects 40%-70% of adults could catch coronavirus in the coming year

If Your Time is short

  • An epidemiologist at Harvard University projects 40%-70% of adults could catch coronavirus in the coming year.

As more people are infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, many are wondering: Am I next? 

The odds may not be in our favor, according to a recent Facebook post

"Harvard scientists just predicted that it may take many months to find cure for coronavirus," the March 10 post says. "According to them, virus is spreading so fast that it will infect 70% of humanity this year." 

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) 

Spokespeople for Harvard University did not immediately reply to PolitiFact’s emails asking about the post. 

But news stories lend some credence to the Facebook post’s claims — and provide more information that the post fails to mention. 

On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic that has infected nearly 120,000 people worldwide. More than 4,000 people have died and eight countries, including the United States, are currently each reporting more than 1,000 cases.

Mark Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at Harvard’s Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics and an expert on viruses, told CBS News, among other news outlets, that 40% to 70% of the world’s adult population could be infected in the coming year. 

There are an estimated 7.6 billion people in the world, and an estimated 329 million in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Adults make up about three-quarters of the U.S. population. 

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"That is a projection," Lipsitch said during the March 2 interview, "so we will find out if that’s accurate as things go on. It is the best estimate that I’ve been able to make based on a combination of the mathematical models that we use to track and predict epidemics."

Other estimates are similar. The Guardian reported on Feb. 11 that 60% of the global population could be infected if the virus is unchecked. On Feb. 13, Bloomberg reported that Ira Longini, an adviser to the World Health Organization, said two-thirds of the world’s population could catch COVID-19. 

But the publication also quoted David Heymann, an infectious disease expert at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, explaining that researchers need more data to get a better idea of how far the coronavirus could spread. 

"The models will be refined as more information comes to light," he said. 

Our ruling

The Facebook post says Harvard scientists say the coronavirus is "spreading so fast that it will infect 70% of humanity this year." 

An epidemiologist at the university has said that 40% to 70% of the world’s adult population could be infected in the coming year. 

But that is a projection, and other projections vary. 

We rate this post Half True. 

 

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An epidemiologist projects 40%-70% of adults could catch coronavirus in the coming year

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