1 in 5 New Yorkers May Have Had COVID-19, Antibody Tests Suggest

NEW YORK — One of every five New York City residents tested positive for antibodies to the coronavirus, according to preliminary results described by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday.

1 in 5 New Yorkers May Have Had COVID-19, Antibody Tests Suggest

If the pattern holds, the results from random testing of 3,000 people raised the tantalizing prospect that many New Yorkers — as many as 2.7 million, the governor said — who never knew they had been infected had already encountered the virus and survived.

In New York City, about 21% tested positive for coronavirus antibodies during the state survey. The rate was about 17% on Long Island, nearly 12% in Westchester and Rockland counties, and less than 4% in the rest of the state.

State researchers sampled blood from the approximately 3,000 people they had tested over two days, including about 1,300 in New York City, at grocery and big-box stores. The results were sent to the state’s Wadsworth facility in Albany, a respected public health lab.

Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the city’s top official for disease control, wrote in an email alert Wednesday that such tests “may produce false negative or false positive results.” The alert went on to warn that the consequences of relying on potentially false results may lead to “providing patients incorrect guidance on preventive interventions like physical distancing or protective equipment.”

Cuomo on Thursday suggested, based on the survey, that if as many as 2.7 million New Yorkers had the virus, the death rate in New York from COVID-19 would most likely be far lower than previously believed, possibly 0.5% of those infected.

More than 15,000 people have died of the virus in the state, a figure that does not include an additional 5,000 people in New York City who were never tested but were presumed to have died from the disease.

The number of deaths has been increasing less quickly, and new hospital admissions for the coronavirus have remained relatively flat over the past three days: about 1,350 patients per day, down from more than 2,000 per day last week. More than 263,000 have tested positive for the infection.

Cuomo said antibody testing results, along with hospitalization numbers, would influence the state’s reopening strategy, noting that the number of people being hospitalized was still too high to consider easing restrictions.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times .

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