NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York State will undertake the most aggressive state-wide coronavirus antibody testing survey in the nation over next week.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday the testing is critical in the effort to reopen the state, CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported.
“Any plan that is going to start to reopen the economy has to be based on data, and that means it has to be based on testing,” Cuomo said.
And that means staying smart, Cuomo said, and not rushing under pressure as the state appears to be going in the right direction. The rate of infection is stabilizing and the hospitalization rate is down.
“We are past the high point and all indications at this point are we that we are on the descent. Whether or not that descent continues depends on what we do,” Cuomo said.
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So starting Monday, the state Department of Health will begin conducting a statewide antibody testing survey. The survey will sample 3,000 people for a population of 19.5 million.
Germany performed a 3,000-person sample with a population of 83 million.
The large-scale, FDA-approved testing will help determine the percentage of the population that could be immune to the virus, which would allow more people to safely go back to work.
“And we’ll take thousands of tests — antibody tests — over this next week all across the state to give us a real snapshot, a real baseline of exactly how many people were infected by coronavirus and have the antibodies. So, we’ll have the first real statistical number on exactly where we are as a population,” Cuomo said.
Dr. Ayman Attia, a primary care physician in Whitestone, Queens, has already begun administering COVID-19 antibody tests.
When asked how critical it is to have the tests, Attia said, “I think this is a very important test, but we don’t want to give false hope to other people. Because this test has some limitations.”
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U.S. regulators say more than 70,000 companies have signed up to sell antibody tests, a blood test that can yield results in 24 hours. Because of the simplicity, the FDA waived the initial review of the test as part of its emergency response to the outbreak, leading critics to question its accuracy.
People in the early stages of infection could test negative, since they’ve yet to develop detectable antibodies, and Dr. Attia said some who test positive for coronavirus antibodies are not necessarily immune to COVID-19.
“Sometime the blood test come back that you are immune to the coronavirus. However, there are few other coronaviruses,” Attia said. “You could be exposed to the other mild coronavirus, not the bad one that we have now, the COVID-19, and therefore we get false impression that you’re immune, but you’re really not immune against this bad virus. You’re immune against the old virus.”
Dr. Attia and many other medical experts say antibody tests should be paired with diagnostic tests, like nasal swabs, to determine whether someone is currently infected.
The governor also announced the state is working with the federal government to increase diagnostic testing, which determines if a person is positive or negative for COVID-19.