Home Economy COVID-19 UPDATE: NY develops test that might expedite return to ‘normal’

COVID-19 UPDATE: NY develops test that might expedite return to ‘normal’

Fast Facts:
  • The governor reaffirmed today that social distancing is working, “we just have to stay with it”
  • The governor said the state needs federal assistance to restart its economy and he would be sending a letter today to the congressional delegation laying out what the state needs
  • Number of deaths in the state rose from 4,758 to 5,489; 283 in Westchester
  • 17,493 are hospitalized
  • 1,224 people were discharged from hospitals

A test that has the potential for use to help speed the reopening of the economy has been developed by the New York State Department of Health at its Wadsworth Center lab in Albany. The test would be used to determine whether a person has had COVID-19, will no longer spread the virus to others and is immune from catching it again.

Commissioner of Health Howard Zucker said, “We’re working to scale that up now. Over the course of the next week we’ll be able to figure out how many we’ll be able to run. We’re expecting to be able to scale that up not just here in the lab, in our lab, but to get other labs to do that as well. We’ll have to work with the FDA to get that approved.”

Zucker

Zucker was at an Albany news conference with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who spent some time previewing how he and Govs. Ned Lamont of Connecticut and Phil Murphy of New Jersey have been working to develop a regional approach for getting people back to work and reopening the economy.

Testing to determine which people have had the virus and are no longer at risk or pose a threat to others would be key to determining who could safely go back to work and resume other ordinary activities.

“There are many tests out there that companies are making,” Zucker explained, saying there are two types of immune globulins that can be produced as part of human blood plasma and can reveal what’s happening in the body.

“One that says the infection just is still there and is starting to mount a response as happens with any virus. And, your body also makes an immune globulin after your infection is resolved. That’s the one you want to measure otherwise you may be measuring something which actually says you still have the infection in your body. You want to measure the one that says it’s resolved and that’s the one that we developed the test for.”

Cuomo said mass testing is the key to determining when it’s safe for people to go back to work, back to school and resume group activities. He pointed out that in New York state alone the population is 19 million and that represents a lot of testing that would need to be done. He said the state would invest in companies that would be willing to produce the tests commercially in the vast quantities that would be necessary. He appealed for any company that might be interested to contact the Empire State Development Corp.

“We have to start planning for restarting life,” Cuomo said. “We’re not there yet but this is not a light switch that we can just flick one day and everything goes back to normal.”

Cuomo said that waiting until the virus had completely disappeared to restart the economy is a luxury we cannot afford.

“How do you start the economy back up, how do you start getting back to work as quickly as possible? It’s going to come down to testing. You’re going to have to know who had the virus, who resolved the virus, who never had it, and that’s going to be testing,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo said that he is writing today to the state’s congressional delegation urging that the next federal economic rescue bill fix inequities in the first bills that shortchanged New York.

Cuomo said that while the federal government has agreed to allow COVID-19 patients to be treated on the hospital ship USNS Comfort, the patient capacity of the ship had been cut in half to about 500 beds because treating a COVID patient requires extra space.

Cuomo reported there now have been 5,489 deaths in New York state from the virus, up from yesterday’s figure showing 4,758 deaths. He did not present statistics as he had at past news conferences detailing the number of known cases statewide along with the distribution of those cases by county. However, the health department showed 283 fatalities in Westchester as of April 6.

Cuomo said 1,224 people were discharged from hospitals yesterday. The number of people admitted to intensive care units yesterday was 89, the lowest in 17 days and roughly one-fifth the peak of 395 admissions on April 3. Cuomo suggested that might be a further hint that the virus is at or nearing a plateau in the pandemic’s progression.

Cuomo said that social distancing is working and New Yorkers just have to stay with it. He said that although it seems like it’s been much longer, the crisis has only been unfolding locally for 37 days. He compared that with the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic that gripped New York for six months and resulted in approximately 30,000 deaths.

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