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Initial antibody test results suggest 2.7 million New York infections

If confirmed, that's 10 times the official number of infected New Yorkers.

Initial antibody test results suggest 2.7 million New York infections
Image source: Getty Images
  • It may be that many more unsymptomatic New Yorkers have encountered COVID-19 and fought it off.
  • If this is true, the death rate may be lower than currently believed.
  • Andrew Cuomo presented these early findings with the caveat that the study hasn't been completed or published yet.

We don't really know how many people have or have not been infected by coronavirus. Insufficient testing has left us largely flying blind, though there's been a general suspicion among experts that the disease's incidence is substantially underreported in what data there is.

On April 22, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo described the preliminary findings of a new series of tests his state is conducting. The tests seek to identify asymptomatic individuals who are carrying antibodies that indicate they've fought off COVID-19 or are currently doing so. So far — and there's much more testing to be done — 13.9% of people tested positive for antibodies. That would suggest some 2.7 million New Yorkers have encountered the coronavirus. That's 10 times the official tally. In New York City, the results are even higher — 21.2% of people tested have the antibodies.

This could mean that the coronavirus has asymptomatically moved through a larger chunk of the population than previously known, and that the death rate may thus be much less than previously thought.

Cuomo’s and others' comments on the report

Image source: State of New York

Cuomo discussed the report's initial findings at a press conference. Since the study is ongoing, and the report itself not yet made available, his comments are the best information we have so far.

Said Cuomo, "We're going to continue this testing on a rolling basis. We'll have a larger and larger sample. But I want to see snapshots of what is happening with that rate. Is it going up? Is it flat? Is it going down? And [the antibody study] can really give us data to make decisions."

Not everyone is convinced of the study's value. NYC Health, for example, has raised warnings regarding the potential for false positives and negatives, and cites the remaining "void" in our knowledge of COVID-19.

The tests were developed by New York State's Wadsworth Center lab, which asserts that it's 93-100% effective at differentiating the current coronavirus from previous infections. However, the lab has not publicly rated its efficiency, or sensitivity, at delivering accurate positives.

On top of that, it's always a good idea to resist drawing conclusions too quickly from any single study, and especially from one whose findings are so preliminary. Speaking with NBC News, Harvard epidemiologist William Hanage cautions, "There's a risk of really serious misinterpretation here." Nonetheless, "the most basic conclusion — that quite a large number of people may have been infected and are not turning up in the official case counts — that's extremely plausible and something we have been suspecting all along."

Image source: State of New York

Blood tests were administered to 3,000 people across the state — in 40 locations and 19 counties — as they shopped at grocery and big-box stores. There's therefore a certain degree of pre-selection in the sample so far. For example, people too ill or otherwise infirm to be out and about are not included in its results. This is one of the report's limitations and a reason to wait before jumping to too many conclusions regarding its data.

"These are people who were out and about shopping," noted Cuomo. "They were not people who were in their homes. They were not people who were isolated. They were not people who were quarantined."

The results so far also reflect the disproportionate impact of coronavirus of people of color. Statewide, 22.8% of multiracial individuals tested positive for the antibody, as well as 22% of both African-Americans and Latinos.

Take your career to the next level by raising your EQ

Emotional intelligence is a skill sought by many employers. Here's how to raise yours.

Gear
  • Daniel Goleman's 1995 book Emotional Intelligence catapulted the term into widespread use in the business world.
  • One study found that EQ (emotional intelligence) is the top predictor of performance and accounts for 58% of success across all job types.
  • EQ has been found to increase annual pay by around $29,000 and be present in 90% of top performers.
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Yale scientists restore cellular function in 32 dead pig brains

Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.

Still from John Stephenson's 1999 rendition of Animal Farm.
Surprising Science
  • Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
  • They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
  • The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.
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Face mask study reveals worst material for blocking COVID-19

A study published Friday tested how well 14 commonly available face masks blocked the emission of respiratory droplets as people were speaking.

Fischer et al.
Coronavirus
  • The study tested the efficacy of popular types of face masks, including N95 respirators, bandanas, cotton-polypropylene masks, gaiters, and others.
  • The results showed that N95 respirators were most effective, while wearing a neck fleece (aka gaiter) actually produced more respiratory droplets than wearing no mask at all.
  • Certain types of homemade masks seem to be effective at blocking the spread of COVID-19.
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You want to stop child abuse? Here's how you can actually help.

Sharing QAnon disinformation is harming the children devotees purport to help.

Photo: Atjanan Charoensiri / Shutterstock
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The conspiracy theory, QAnon, is doing more harm than good in the battle to end child trafficking.
  • Foster youth expert, Regan Williams, says there are 25-29k missing children every year, not 800k, as marketed by QAnon.
  • Real ways to help abused children include donating to nonprofits, taking educational workshops, and becoming a foster parent.
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Strange Maps

Here’s a map of Mars with as much water as Earth

A 71% wet Mars would have two major land masses and one giant 'Medimartian Sea.'

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