As New York state continues its aggressive antibody testing, the latest results released by Gov. Andrew Cuomo show that 24.7 percent of people tested in New York City tested positive for having had the virus, with 14.9 percent testing positive across the state. A quarter of New York City’s 8.6 million residents translates to about 2.1 million people, a staggering number considering the city has thus far confirmed only 158,000 cases.
The good news is that it may be possible for those who test positive for antibodies to resume more normal activities as they may not be at risk, or present risk to others. But determining who those people are would require millions and millions of tests, a capacity that seems a long way off.
The apparent scale of the virus in the city will also complicate efforts that are being stood up to create contact tracing. Given the widespread nature of the disease, it is hard to see how even tens of thousands of tracing employees could keep track of so many infected people and their contacts.
Another possible complication of the tracing and isolation program is the racial disparity in positive antibody tests. Latinos and blacks have significantly high rates of infection which could lead to neighborhoods where they are predominant having far more people in isolation than in other areas. In a controversial move, Mayor Bill de Blasio put his wife Chirlane McCray to head up the city’s efforts regarding coronavirus racial disparity.
If the numbers hold up then given New York City’s roughly 12,000 reported deaths from coronavirus, the mortality rate in the city is between .5 and .6 percent, far lower than the alarming 3-4 percent that the World Health Organization previously reported.
Cuomo announced that on May 15, he plans to begin relaxation of “New York Pause” as he calls the shutdown mandate in the Empire state. This will begin with remote counties, which have infection rates in the low single digits. Where this leaves the nation’s largest city is unclear, but is clear is that far more New Yorkers have contracted the virus than was previously known.