Affirmation that New York continues to have the lowest COVID-19 transmission rate in the U.S. at 0.77% is encouraging at a time when 22 states in the South and West are hitting the pause button on reopening their economies.
As of Tuesday, Hawaii had the highest rate of transmission at 1.17%, with Montana and Arizona tied for second-highest at 1.14%. Alaska, Vermont and Arkansas reported similar infection rates this week.
A random COVID-19 antibody test sample of 12,000 New Yorkers showed 13.4% of the state’s population has been infected or exposed to the coronavirus. The sample, taken from May 1 through June 13, is 1.1% higher than the state’s initial antibody results taken in April, which revealed a population infection rate of 12.3%.
The updated antibody test results show New Yorkers were successful in flattening the curve. More important, the low transmission rate illustrates that the state’s phased-in reopening strategy is working.
“They reopened quickly, they did not have the same [reopening] phases,” Cuomo said Tuesday of states experiencing new spikes in coronavirus cases. “They’re seeing the numbers of cases go up. That is a fact. Now we actually know what happened. Phased reopening is better.”
The antibody test is a blood test that looks for antibodies that are created in your body after you have had COVID-19.
The antibody positives represent those individuals who have had an antibody test and were shown to have exposure to the virus, but did not end up getting symptoms of the virus, Livingston County Public Health Director Jennifer Rodriguez said.
A positive antibody test is not considered a positive COVID-19 test, and may instead be indicative of immunity to the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
In Livingston County, which recently began posting antibody test data to its COVID Tracking Map, 29 of the 649 people who have taken an antibody test have had a positive result. That represents 4.5% of the people in the limited sample had been exposed to the virus.
Looking at another data set: the number of people tested for COVID-19, the trend is also hopeful.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, New York State has tested more than 3.1 million people for COVID-19, of which 12.4% have tested positive. But in the Finger Lakes Region and the four-county GLOW Region, numbers have been significantly lower.
The Finger Lakes Region, which includes Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties, in addition to Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, Wayne and Yates county had an infection rate of 2.9% among the 156,078 people tested.
Six of the counties, including Livingston and Wyoming, were at 2% or less.
In the GLOW region, 21,429 total tests have been conducted, returning 671 positive results, a rate of 3.1 percent.
Among individual GLOW counties, rates ranged from 1.8% in Livingston to 6.5% in Orleans. Wyoming is at 2% and Geneseo at 3%.
The rate has been declining in recent weeks, even as testing increases. In Livingston County, for example, the infection rate among those tested was 6.7% on May 5 and 2.3% on June 7.
Such a downward trend is promising – though not a reason to ease up on such CDC recommendations as social distancing, frequent hand washing or wearing face coverings.
Data from this week remains encouraging. The state’s 10 designated economic regions had between 0.2% to 1.7% positive virus tests Monday of New York’s 50,000-plus diagnostic tests conducted each day. The state saw 25 virus-related deaths Monday, including 16 in hospitals and nine in nursing homes. The state’s daily death toll has continued a flattening decline for several weeks.
“We’re at a number that is so low it may even be statistically questionable,” Cuomo said.
If that is true, and we hope it is, New York state is in a very good place right now.
Let’s step back and assess. We can now accept the fact that charging headlong into reopening without phases was the wrong thing to do. We can agree that staying the course — reopening the smart and responsible way — was right.