Governor: Antibody survey shows widespread exposure to virus in New York

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NEW YORK –
More evidence is emerging that many more New Yorkers have had the coronavirus than the number confirmed by laboratory tests, officials said on Thursday.

A state survey of approximately 3,000 people found that almost 14% had antibodies, suggesting that they had been exposed to the virus, said Governor Andrew Cuomo during his daily press conference.

In New York, the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, 21% of those tested had antibodies.

Cuomo warned that the data was preliminary. The sample of people tested was small. Participants were hastily recruited from malls and grocery stores, which meant they were healthy enough to be in public.

But the governor said knowing how many people have antibodies and who might be immune to the virus could help shape policy on reopening parts of the state.

“We will have an increasingly large sample. But I want to see snapshots of what’s going on with this rate. Is it rising, is it flat, is it falling? And it can really provide us with data to make decisions, ”says Cuomo.

Earlier on Thursday, the New York City health commissioner said nearly a million people in New York may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

At least 263,000 people across the state, including about 142,000 people in New York, have tested positive for the coronavirus, but city health commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot called the numbers “cutting edge” of the iceberg “.

She noted that the city is still telling people who suspect they have the virus but are not seriously ill that they do not need to be tested, so the actual number of sick people is unknown.

“It would not surprise me if, at this point, we probably have close to a million New Yorkers who have been exposed to COVID-19,” she said.

A further 438 people were killed by the virus on Wednesday, bringing the death toll to over 15,700. This number includes no more than 5,100 other deaths in New York that were allegedly caused by the virus but have not yet died. not been confirmed by a laboratory test.

More than 15,000 people remain hospitalized across the state, with nearly 1,400 new patients admitted every day in the past few days.

Blood tests that check antibodies, which the immune system makes to fight the virus, should help health officials understand how many people have had the virus with few or no symptoms.

New York’s attempt to get a picture of the number of people who have anti-virus antibodies is also motivated by the question of whether the region is closer to collective immunity, a state in which so many people have developed defenses against infection that it becomes difficult for the virus to spread.

But these tests should be done with random sampling, ensuring that the people tested are representative of geographic, social, racial and other conditions. There are also questions about the accuracy of the blood tests used. Scientists have discovered that some of them are not reliable enough, with too many false positives and false negatives.

Experts do not yet know whether having antibodies means that someone will not get COVID-19 a second time.

The New York antibody survey was conducted at 40 sites in 19 counties. Relatively few people were found with antibodies, only 3.6%, in the northern regions of New York State.

At the start of the pandemic, health officials estimated that up to half of New Yorkers would catch the virus. Mayor Bill de Blasio said it was still plausible, although the lack of comprehensive and widespread testing makes it difficult to say for sure.

“We are still dealing with the big unknown in the absence of tests. We don’t even know 100% when the first cases appeared in this city, because we didn’t have tests in February. We know it was February, but we don’t know how many people recovered it at the time. “

De Blasio said that “in a perfect world”, hundreds of thousands of people would be tested every day.

He said the city needs help from the federal government to reach this level of testing, but is strengthening its testing capacity and is expected to reach 20,000 to 30,000 tests a day by next month.

Correction:

This story has been corrected to show that 263,000 people in New York State have tested positive for coronavirus, not just in New York.

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