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Health Officials Warn That People Without Symptoms May Be Spreading Coronavirus

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As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub..

Health officials are warning that asymptomatic people infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) may also be contributing to the rapid spread of the disease, despite previously stating that only people that showed symptoms were contagious.

A number of experts spoke to CNN about new studies that are shedding light on the asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19, telling the outlet that it has become “absolutely clear” that people who don’t show any symptoms or mild symptoms are responsible for more transmission than previously believed.

“Asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic transmission are a major factor in transmission for Covid-19,” Dr. William Schaffner, a professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and a longtime adviser to the CDC told the outlet. “They’re going to be the drivers of spread in the community.”

“At the very beginning of the outbreak, we had many questions about how transmission of this virus occurred,” he continued. “And unfortunately, we saw a number of people taking very firm stances about it was happening this way or it wasn’t happening this way. And as we have continued to learn how transmission occurs with this outbreak, it is clear that many of those early statements were not correct.”

“This is time for straight talk. This is time to tell the public what we know and don’t know,” Schaffner added.

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One of the leading examples of this has been the outbreak of cases in Massachusetts, where 82 people were confirmed with coronavirus after the biotechnology company Biogen held a company meeting. Three employees who had attended the meeting tested positive afterward, though showed no symptoms at the time.

Another example is that of the confirmed NBA cases of COVID-19. Last week, Utah Jazz players Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell both tested positive for the virus.

Earlier today, Mitchell appeared on Good Morning America and revealed that he was asymptomatic, and said it should be a warning to others about maintaining social distancing.

“I’m asymptomatic, you know, I don’t have any symptoms. I could walk down the street if it wasn’t public knowledge that I was sick,” Mitchell said. “You wouldn’t know it. I think that’s the scariest part about this virus, is that you can seem fine, be fine, and you never know who you may be talking to and who they’re going home to.”

Similarly, countries across the globe have shared their own research showing that a significant amount of their cases were a result of pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic transmission, CNN reported.

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A study that was shared by researchers on Sunday found that between 48% and 66% of the 91 cases in Singapore were contracted from someone who was pre-symptomatic. They found similar results in that of the 135 people with the virus in Tianjin, China, reporting that 62% and 77% of those cases were caused by someone who was pre-symptomatic.

In light of this new knowledge, it’s encouraged that Americans continue to follow protocols outlined by the CDC, as well as continue practicing social distancing to help contain the spread of the virus.

As of Monday afternoon, March 16, there have been at least 3,823 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 67 deaths in the U.S., according to a New York Times database.