MANHASSET, NY — New York state will start testing residents for the antibodies that show they have been infected by the new coronavirus and recovered from COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at his Sunday briefing.
“We’re going to do that in the most aggressive way in the nation,” he said. “The FDA has approved the state’s antibody test. We’re going to be rolling it out to do the largest survey of any state population that has been done. We’ll take thousands of antibody tests all across the state to get a real baseline of how many people were infected and have the antibodies. So we’ll have the first real statistical number on where we are as a population.”
Cuomo made the announcement at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research on Long Island. Before the announcement, he toured the Northwell Health Core Laboratories.
Cuomo had visited the Northwell lab in March, when there were 105 cases of COVID-19 in New York (most in Westchester County) and the outbreak was spreading rapidly.
At the time, the federal government had just loosened controls on testing, allowing states’ public labs to do their own testing instead of having to send tests to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for results. Cuomo was still waiting for federal officials to answer his request to let private labs help and to allow automated test analyses instead of requiring manual analysis of test results.
As of Saturday, 242,786 people in New York have tested positive for the new coronavirus. This past week, Cuomo repeatedly asked for private companies to help create and manufacture antibody tests and called on federal officials to get large-scale testing going so that the economy can reopen.
Antibody testing is essential to check for people’s immunity to the virus, which is still moving through the population.
Northwell will start this week aiming to do 10,000 antibody tests a day and then double that, said Michael Dowling, Northwell’s CEO.
“We’re working with all the other big health care systems in the region,” Dowling said. “Our expectation is hundreds of thousands of tests across the state.”
In addition, diagnostic testing for COVID-19 will ramp up.
“Nobody has done testing at this level ever,” Cuomo said.
Since the beginning of the outbreak, 617,555 diagnostic tests have been done in New York, according to the most recent data from the state health department. New York has a population of 19 million.
“We have to do this in partnership with the federal government,” Cuomo said. “I spoke to the head of the CDC yesterday and we talked about how we can do this together.”
Cuomo said the federal government in particular has to help with the supply chain, which requires international purchases of both equipment and chemical reagents.
The height of the coronavirus was in fact a plateau, Cuomo said, which meant the state’s health care workers have had to come in every day to an extraordinary tense environment “that was day after day after day. They did it — they got us through the plateau and now they’re getting us down the other side.”
Hospitalizations have dropped to about 16,000 from a high point of about 18,000, the governor said.
Cuomo warned against reopening everything in a rapid and unorganized way.
“This is a reality check: yesterday 1,300 new people were hospitalized,” Cuomo said. “Start to reopen but watch that hospitalization rate and that infection rate because … you could go right back where you were in one week’s time … If we go through this crisis and then recreate this crisis, well then shame on us.”
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