NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Nearly 2 million residents were infected with the coronavirus during the first wave of the pandemic in the spring.

That’s according to a new report that also found the virus is much more deadly than the flu, CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon reported Tuesday.

Months after COVID-19 overwhelmed the Big Apple, we’re now learning new details about its impact on our community.

“Initially, we did not have a lot of nucleic acid testing, a lot of PCR testing, and so the vast majority of initial cases were probably not captured,” said Dr. Florian Krammer, a virologist with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

A new report by the Icahn School of Medicine has found that during the first wave of the pandemic, 1.7 million New York City residents, or about 22% of the city’s population, were infected.

The fatality rate is sitting at around 0.97%, about 10 times more deadly than the flu, and a rate much higher than other places around the world.

“We got hit by surprise that the medical facilities the health care system in the city was overwhelmed,” Krammer said, “and, you know, we were not very efficient in treating it initially.”

The findings come after researchers checked for COVID-19 antibodies in plasma samples from more than 10,000 hospital patients between February and July. This technique allowed doctors to check for past infections that may have been undetected due to mild symptoms or asymptomatic patients.

Other takeaways from the report include:

  • COVID survivors had antibodies present more than three months after the infection.
  • The virus was in the city before the first confirmed case on March 1.

“The virus was already here, maybe, you know, two, three, four weeks before that, maybe at low prevalence,” Krammer said. “When a virus emerges in a new population, you don’t necessarily see thousands of cases right away. The virus lingers around before it then takes up steam.”

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The report also found that after New York State implemented a stay-at-home order in late March, cases began to drop and eventually plateaued in the city.

Still, Krammer said the infection rate is far below what’s necessary for herd immunity.

“We need to keep going with social distancing. We have to be careful. The virus is likely more transmissible when the temperature is cold,” Krammer said.

The report contains essential new information, since some say the second wave is already here.

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