Frontline healthcare workers at four New York City hospitals that have handled high volumes of patients with CCP virus, which stands for the Chinese Communist Party virus, will be the first tested under the new program, Cuomo said. The hospitals were named as Bellevue hospital, Elmhurst hospital, Montefiore, and SUNY Downstate Health Sciences.
Earlier last week, Cuomo said that conducting “the most aggressive” antibody testing would help to determine how many people in New York were infected by the virus and what percentage of the population was now immune to it, allowing more individuals to supposedly safely return to work as the state moves to reopen the economy in the coming weeks and months.
“Any plan to start to reopen the economy has to be based on data and testing, and we have to make sure our antibody and diagnostic testing is up to the scale we need so we can safely get people back to work,” Cuomo said in a statement, adding that a sample of 3,000 state residents would begin receiving tests from the state Department of Health from April 20.
“This will be the first true snapshot of exactly how many people were infected by COVID-19 and where we are as a population, and will help us to reopen and rebuild without jeopardizing what we’ve already accomplished,” Cuomo said.
Antibody testing can help with surveillance of asymptomatic COVID-19 cases, and, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, serve two purposes; to test if a person has been is infected, and to confirm that person has recovered.
Speaking at a White House press briefing on April 17, Fauci said that antibodies usually indicate that someone has been infected and then recovered from COVID-19.
“That person is actually protected against subsequent exposure and infection with an identical organism,” he said. However, he added that because of the novelty of the COVID-19, researchers still don’t know how long this antibody protection in recovered persons will last.
The World Health Organization (WHO) a week later also warned that those patients with antibodies for COVID-19 aren’t necessarily protected from a second round of infection.
“As of April 24, 2020, no study has evaluated whether the presence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 confers immunity to subsequent infection by this virus in humans,” the United Nations group said in a scientific brief.
Cuomo’s testing announcement came as new data showed hospitalizations for coronavirus in the state falling to their lowest level in three weeks.
A little more than 13,000 people were hospitalized for the disease on Friday—about the same level the state was at on April 1 before a surge of cases.
However, the governor announced 437 deaths on Friday, bringing the total number of reported deaths to 16,599 in New York.
“We are back where we were 21 days ago,” Cuomo said in a press conference Saturday. “All the numbers are basically saying the same, that we are in fact on the downside of the mountain.”
Cuomo added that he is signing an executive order to allow independent pharmacists the authority to conduct diagnostic tests for COVID-19.