A study in California says that the COVID-19 outbreak has been more widespread than many believe.

The study conducted in Santa Clara County in California looked at more than 3,000 people. They used antibody testing on these individuals, and found that between 2.5% and 4.2% of those randomly tested already had the antibodies. Meaning they already had the virus, and it passed, without their knowledge.

This backs up previous research that shows nearly 80% of those infected will never know they had the virus. Which has also fits what the World Health Organization has stated.

But what does this mean? It means that the current numbers for "confirmed cases" in the United States, and likely the world, are extremely low compared to the actual outbreak. The California study says the numbers of those exposed may be 85% higher than what we're currently considering.

If the numbers are 85% higher than we're currently considering, what would that mean for everyone? Two really big things actually.

First, this would mean the mortality rate is far under what we believe right now. Right now some doctors believe the fatality rate of those infected with COVID-19 is .5% to .9%, which are pretty high numbers. But with this new research, that fatality rate among infected drops to  .12% or .2%. The seasonal flu fatality rate of those infected is usually about .1% annually. This new research brings the COVID death rate more inline with influenza.

Second, we're far closer to herd immunity than previously thought.

Herd immunity is when a deep enough percentage of a population has already been exposed to a disease that is suffocates the outbreak by denying the disease new hosts. When enough people have the antibodies to prevent infection, the virus runs out of hosts, and dies off.

Some world leaders, including the UK's Boris Johnson and the Prime Minister of The Netherlands Mark Rutte both said that working towards herd immunity is likely the fastest way out of the COVID pandemic. Medical professionals have also prescribed herd immunity as a way to beat the virus. But some have feared the cost of getting to that level of infection to achieve heard immunity.

But now, that worry of the "cost" to achieve herd immunity may be wiped away. If our rate of infection is 85% higher than expected, that means our antibody-based-immune population is 85% higher than thought.