ALBANY — According to a random survey of 3,000 people, 13.9 percent of all New Yorkers tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, which means they were infected with the virus and recovered.
That percentage equates to about 2.7 million people who were asymptomatic or had symptoms mild enough to not warrant a trip to the hospital or even a test for the virus.
If that number holds, and related to the some 15,500 who have died in this state, it puts the death rate at about 0.5 percent, which is far below most of the projections — as high as 5 percent in this country and 13 percent in Italy — and 0.4 higher than what is generally accepted as the fatality rate associated with the seasonal flu.
The COVID-19 antibody tests were conducted across 19 counties at 40 grocery stores and box stores, said Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his daily briefing on Thursday.
As expected, New York City had the highest rate of infection, 21.2 percent, than anywhere else in the state. Long Island had an infection rate of 16.7 percent and Westchester and Rockland counties had an infection rate of 11.7 percent.
The rest of the state, or upstate, the infection rate was 3.6 percent.
“It supports the decision to take a regional analysis and decision making. Upstate New York is 3.6 percent. New York City is 21 percent. What you do in a place with 21 is not the same thing as you do in a place with 3.6 percent,” he said. “The facts dictate the action and when you have different facts you take different action.”
More men were infected, 15.9 percent, than females, 12 percent.
Earlier this week, he said the state would take a regional approach to re-opening the economy given the drastically different number of infections and fatalities in upstate compared to downstate.
The presence of antibodies is an important data point because it gives a more accurate picture of how fast the virus spreads, and how serious a threat it presents to a broader spectrum of people rather than studying only those who were hospitalized.
And, it allows people to donate plasma, which can be used to treat people who are having a more difficult time fighting off the virus. The treatment, called convalescence plasma transfusion, is currently being conducted at Albany Medical Center and St. Peters hospital.
Prior to the ramped up testing the state was focused on the hospitalization rate. There are plans to ramp up testing for people who still have an active case of the virus and then tracing their contacts and isolating when necessary, and more antibody testing to get a better grip on the infection rate as a whole.
Meanwhile, hospitalizations across the state is down, the three-day average of hospitalizations is down and the number of people on a ventilator is also down. The number of new hospitalizations is still at about 1,300 per day but the severity of those cases is not known.
There were 438 fatalities from Wednesday to Thursday. “Tragic” Cuomo said but still lower than a high of nearly 800 earlier this month.