New York State is continuing its emphasis on using data to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Preliminary estimates from a novel coronavirus antibody study of 3,000 New Yorkers suggests 21.2 percent of people in New York City have COVID antibodies, meaning they have been exposed to the disease at some time.
The study took samples from people in 19 New York counties and 40 localities who were out in public at the time they were tested. Governor Andrew Cuomo touted the study as the "largest, most comprehensive" of its kind to determine the true coronavirus infection rate in the general population.
"These are people who are out and about shopping," the governor said. "They are not people in their home, they are not isolated, they are not quarantined... These are people who are outside, they are people who are not at work, so they are probably not essential workers [who are more likely to be exposed]."
Preliminary results from Long Island, found antibodies present in 16.7 percent of people. Results from Westchester and Rockland counties found antibodies in 11.7 percent of people. In the rest of the state, antibodies were found in 3.6 percent of people.
If confirmed, the antibody study will give the state a better idea of the true rate of COVID infections and the true rate of COVID deaths, which these preliminary results suggest are lower than has been feared.
It also suggests that nearly 14 percent of the general population of the state — equal to about 2.7 million people — have already been infected with the novel coronavirus. That's more than 10 times the confirmed cases in the state.
A clearer picture of the infection rate will arm the state with valuable data to inform its reopening strategy.
Antibodies are also a crucial element of convalescent plasma treatment, a leading therapy in critical COVID-19 cases.
New York is working with neighboring states and the federal government to make its coronavirus testing more robust.
On Wednesday, Cuomo announced that the goal is to create an "army of tracers," to identify and isolate outbreak hotspots in the Tri-State area, freeing up the rest of the state to return to work.
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