More than 20 percent of New York City residents tested positive for coronavirus antibodies in a study launched by Governor Andrew Cuomo which, if accurate, means as many as 1.7million people have been infected in the city – and that the mortality rate is between 0.6 and 0.8 percent, far greater than the 0.1 percent mortality rate of the flu.
The study took samples from 3,000 randomly selected people across the state who were chosen at grocery stores and had their blood taken via a finger-prick test that the state’s health department made.
It remains unknown how accurate it is. While private companies have given exact percentages for how accurate their own tests are, when questioned about their test, the NY health department, said only that theirs was ‘very accurate’.
Statewide, the virus prevalence was 13.9 percent but it was far higher in New York City, where 21.2 percent tested positive. New York City, which has a population of 8.4million, has recorded 9,944 confirmed coronavirus deaths and there are another 5,052 presumed deaths from the disease.
There are currently more than 138,000 confirmed cases of the virus in the city which means that, by the study’s percentage, only eight percent of the people who actually had the virus have tested positive for it.
If the infection rate from the study is accurate, when combining the confirmed deaths and presumed deaths, it means the fatality rate is 0.8 percent. When counting confirmed deaths alone, the fatality rate drops to 0.6 percent.
That makes it far more deadly than the flu – which has a fatality rate of 0.1 percent – and coronavirus has proven to be far more contagious.
Oxiris Balbot, the New York City health commissioner, said on Thursday that she estimates up to one million New Yorkers might have been infected.
However, there are a number of deaths that are yet to be counted because they happened in people’s homes and not in hospitals or nursing homes.
Cuomo announced the study results on Thursday
The results varied geographically. In upstate New York, only three percent tested positive for the antibodies.
Long Island saw 16.7 percent antibody detection rate and Westchester had an infection rate of 11 percent.
Eight percent were aged between 18 and 24, 16 percent were between the ages of 45 and 54 and 13 percent were 75 and older.
The results were disproportionately high among African Americans and Latinos, who accounted for 20 percent of the results each, whereas 9.1 percent were White and 11.7 percent were Asian.
Cuomo said the testing will continue and will inform his regional reopening plan but he did not offer up any clarification of what comes next.
‘We have preliminary data, we’re going to continue this testing on a rolling basis, but I want to see snapshots of what is happening with that rate.
‘Is it flat? Is it going down? It can give us data,’ he said.
Hospitalizations continue to decline but not quickly enough, he said.
The number of new deaths on Wednesday was 438, which is less than earlier this week.
Workers at Aria Diagnostics assemble antibody tests in Indianapolis that will be sent to New York City
More workers assemble tests at Aria Diagnostics antibody tests to be sent to New York
Cuomo added that data out of California, where the first confirmed COVID-19 death was on February 6 and not February 29 as previously thought, was worrying.
He said that California had ‘connected’ deaths to COVID as far back as December and January. There has not been a confirmed case that far back.
‘The hospitalization rate is down again so that is good news, if you project the curve. It continues to go down and that’s also in the total hospitalization number.
‘The number of new COVID cases being diagnosed is relatively flat, that’s not great news, we’d like to see that going down.
‘Lives lost is still 438. That number is not coming down as fast as we would like to see it coming down.
‘What we’re looking at, at this point, is we’re on the downside. Do they continue to trend down or do they pop back up?
‘If they continue to trend down, how fast is the decline and how low will the decline go. Thirteen hundred people keep walking in the door…we want to see that reduced. If you look at the number of incoming cases, its been remarkably flat for the past several days.
‘That’s the best indicator of how containment is working. Over the past few days, we’ve flattened it. We’d like to see those new cases reducing even more and faster,’ he said.
The CDC recommends that new infection rate has to be declining for two consecutive weeks before reopening is an option.
New York’s lockdown is in place until May 15.
The increase in 438 deaths brought the total number of deaths in the state to 15,740 and with 6,244 new infections on Wednesday the total cases stand at 263,460.
At his press conference on Thursday, Cuomo also announced an investigation into nursing homes across the state.
He said it was their responsibility, as private businesses, to ensure they can provide adequate care.
What is the REAL death rate of COVID-19? Antibody testing studies suggest mortality rate is up to 70 TIMES lower than official UK figures – as scientists warn the number of infected is still too low to establish ‘herd immunity’
Coronavirus may kill 70 times fewer patients in the UK than official death figures suggest, studies have shown.
Britain has one of the worst COVID-19 testing records, meaning a frightening 13 per cent of diagnosed patients in the UK die from the disease.
But this is considerably higher than the real death rate because it does not take into account the thousands of infected people who had mild symptoms.
Scientists say the only way to work out the actual rate is to test blood samples of the population for antibodies, which the immune system makes once infected.
While the accuracy of these tests is up for debate, experts agree they give a much clearer indication of who has previously been infected – and are considered key to easing the draconian lockdowns imposed across the world.
Results of one antibody survey in Los Angeles suggested the illness may only kill around 0.18 per cent of coronavirus patients.
It was based on the assumption that the true number of infections in LA was 330,000, far higher than the 7,994 that official figures showed when the study was published on April 20.
This is because tens of thousands of people develop such mild symptoms that they are never tested for the illness.
Applying the same death rate to Britain’s coronavirus crisis would suggest that the number of Brits who had caught the virus is in the region of 9.5million – or 14 per cent.
But Government advisers say the true number is likely to be a third of that, and some studies from France suggest it will only get up to 6 per cent in a matter of weeks.
A similar fatality rate (0.19 per cent) was found in a study of residents in Helsinki, Finland.
The samples were all taken from the region of Uusima, which is home to approximately 1.7million people – most of whom live in the capital of Helsinki. It found that 3.4 per cent of the population had antibodies.
At the time, only 2,000 cases had been confirmed by laboratory tests. But 3.4 per of the region’s population would equate to around 57,800.
Only 110 deaths have been registered in Uusima to-date – suggesting that the true fatality rate is closer to the 0.19 per cent mark. By comparison, the flu kills roughly 0.1 per cent of the people it infects.
In other antibody surveillance studies, the death rate was revealed to be higher but still considerably less than the UK’s tally.
Samples in Gangelt, dubbed the ‘German Wuhan’, estimated the true death rate was in the region of 0.37 per cent.
An antibody surveillance scheme in the US city of Chelsea, in Massachusetts, predicted the city has a death rate of 0.31 per cent.
And a sample in the Netherlands suggested the death rate for COVID-19 could actually be in the region of 0.63 per cent.
The varying death rates prove the true lethality of the disease is still unknown, but the antibody studies are starting to paint a clearer picture.
Dr Joe Grove, a virologist at University College London, told MailOnline: ‘Antibody testing is important because the better we understand the virus, the better we can respond to it.
‘The true death rate allows public health experts and epidemiologist to asses what the effects of another epidemic would be.
‘A lot of our current policy has been determined by the predictions of computer simulations. But those models are only as good as the data you put into them.
‘So there would’ve been estimates of death rates and infections, but as we get firmer numbers we can run more accurate simulations and predict with more confidence what might happen in future.
‘This is critical for working out if given epidemic will overwhelm the healthcare system again.’
The new antibody studies are giving researchers a clearer idea of the actual number of infections in the population.
Even in the worst-hit regions, fewer than 10 per cent of the population have been infected.
This signals that countries should not pin their hopes on ‘herd immunity’ preventing a second wave of COVID-19, scientists say.
When enough of a population, roughly 60 to 70 per cent, build up antibodies against an infection, it stunts the virus’ ability to spread.
Herd immunity was controversially touted as a way out of the crisis by the UK’s scientific advisers at the beginning of the outbreak.
Officials proposed letting the majority of the population catch and beat the disease because the virus’ symptoms in most people is mild.
The government based its planning on the assumption that if the virus was allowed to spread unchecked it would eventually infect 80 per cent of the population. That figure appears to have been borrowed from planning for flu pandemics.
But research is beginning to show that nowhere near enough people will catch the virus in the first wave to create the indirect community protection.
Research at the Zhongnan Hospital in Wuhan, the epicentre of the pandemic, found that about 2.4 per cent of its employees and patients had developed antibodies against COVID-19.
In France, the Pasteur Institute estimates that less than 6 per cent will have been caught it by May 11, when the country’s lockdown is due to end.
That makes a resurgence of the virus highly likely if restrictions were lifted without a vaccine, experts said.
Simon Cauchemez, lead author of the institute’s study, said: ‘For collective immunity to be effective in avoiding a second wave, we would have to have immunisation for 70 per cent of the population.
‘We are well below this. If we want to avoid a major second wave, some measures will have to be maintained.’
Countries are moving towards antibody sampling to get a clearer idea of how the infection has spread and how many people may be immune to the disease.
They are considered the key to letting countries out of lockdown safely without a second wave of cases.
But British health chiefs have still only carried out fewer than 5,000 antibody tests – despite mass schemes being carried out across the globe.
Italy has begun screening the blood of 20,000 people a day, while one programme in the US will involve 40,000 healthcare workers.
Germany plans to test 15,000 people and apply the findings to its whole population, and even Andorra has ordered 150,000 kits – enough to give its entire population two each.