13.9% Of New Yorkers Test Positive For Coronavirus Antibodies—Still Not Enough To Foster Herd Immunity

13.9% of people surveyed in New York tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies—a whopping 10 times higher than the state’s presumed infection rate, but still far from what would be considered herd immunity from the pandemic.

KEY FACTS

Herd immunity happens when over 60% of the population develops immunity—antibodies—to a disease, a phenomenon that usually occurs when a population is vaccinated against a virus.

In the new study cited by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on 3,000 people across the state, 13.9% exhibited COVID-19 antibodies (21% in New York City), implying that 2.7 million people across the state had been exposed to COVID-19, according to Bloomberg, 10-times higher than the presumed infection rate.

Dr. Nate Favini, medical lead at preventative health clinic Forward, told Forbes he’s skeptical about the antibody tests, and cautions against opening up the country to reach herd immunity, saying that would require infecting four-times the amount of people who’ve had the virus—all over the country—leading to a much higher number of deaths by possibly overwhelming hospital resources.

It is unclear whether, and for how long, those with COVID-19 antibodies are immune to second-time infection, as the CDC says survivor immunity is “not yet understood.”

Further, the validity of antibody tests have been widely criticized, as many on the market are not approved by the FDA.

Favini also thinks that more information about how the study was conducted is needed to accept and understand these numbers.

Critical quote

“For people who want to argue that we should just open up the county and let everyone get coronavirus so we can get to herd immunity: You’d have to go through all the cases and all the deaths that New York has experienced—you’d have to go through four-times that, all around the country,” said Favini.

Key background

It may be that COVID-19 is much more common than we initially thought, though this is contested. On Thursday, a new model out of Northeastern University, as reported by New York Times, shows that cities with major COVID-19 outbreaks could’ve had 28,000 cases on March 1, which is contrary to the popular model that showed only 23 cases by this time in the major cities. As of April 22, it also appears that the first COVID-19 death was in California on February 6, rather than February 29 in Washington.

Further reading

Autopsies Now Say California⁠—Not Washington State⁠—Has First Known U.S. Coronavirus Deaths (Forbes)

Coronavirus Model Used By White House Predicts 10% Increase In Death Toll (Forbes)

Hidden Outbreaks Spread Through U.S. Cities Far Earlier Than Americans Knew, Estimates Say (New York Times)

1 in 5 New Yorkers May Have Had Covid-19, Antibody Tests Suggest (New York Times)

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I’m the Under 30 Editorial Community Lead at Forbes. Previously, I directed marketing at a mobile app startup. I’ve also worked at The New York Times and New York Observer. I attended the University of Pennsylvania where I studied English and creative writing. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter at @iamsternlicht.

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The infection rate of the coronavirus in New York is slowing, but the state could soon see the full scope of the virus as it begins antibody testing this week. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says antibody testing will help provide the “first true snapshot” of how much of a hold COVID-19 has on the state. On Sunday, the governor toured a testing lab on Long Island, using it as a launching pad for the state’s newest drive toward understanding and defeating the coronavirus. “We’re going to sample people in this state… to find out if they have the [antibodies] that will help us for the first time, what percentage of the population actually has had the coronavirus, and is now at least short term immune to the virus,” the governor said.

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