Estimating the Fraction of Unreported Infections in Epidemics with a Known Epicenter: An Application to COVID-19

40 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2020 Last revised: 27 Apr 2020

See all articles by Ali Hortaçsu

Ali Hortaçsu

University of Chicago

Jiarui Liu

University of Chicago

Timothy Schwieg

University of Chicago - Department of Economics

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Date Written: April 25, 2020

Abstract

We develop an analytically tractable method to estimate the fraction of unreported infections in epidemics with a known epicenter and estimate the number of unreported COVID-19 infections in the US during the first half of March 2020. Our method utilizes the covariation in initial reported infections across US regions and the number of travelers to these regions from the epicenter, along with the results of an early randomized testing study in Iceland. Using our estimates of the number of unreported infections, which are substantially larger than the number of reported infections, we also provide estimates for the infection fatality rate using data on reported COVID-19 fatalities from U.S. counties.

Suggested Citation

Hortaçsu, Ali and Liu, Jiarui and Schwieg, Timothy, Estimating the Fraction of Unreported Infections in Epidemics with a Known Epicenter: An Application to COVID-19 (April 25, 2020). University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute for Economics Working Paper No. 2020-37, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3574697 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3574697

Ali Hortaçsu (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Jiarui Liu

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Timothy Schwieg

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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