New York City will offer free coronavirus antibody testing to more than 150,000 health-care workers and first responders on the front line of the outbreak to determine if they’ve likely been infected with Covid-19 and recovered, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
“Antibody testing brings a lot to the table, and our goal is to reach a lot of people who would like to take advantage of it on a voluntary basis, of course,” de Blasio said at a press conference on Wednesday.
An antibody test shows whether someone has been exposed to or potentially had the coronavirus and developed the antibodies to fight the infection. It doesn’t guarantee immunity, but physicians say a positive antibody test indicates that a patient may have some level of protection against reinfection.
De Blasio said the city aims to begin testing personnel next week at hospitals, firehouses, police stations and corrections facilities. The city’s goal is to test all health-care workers and first responders within one month, he said.
The testing is in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, de Blasio said.
“It’s not a perfect test but it does give real information. It is helpful,” de Blasio said. “It tells you something very important and is part of solving this bigger puzzle of the coronavirus and fighting it back.”
New York state has also started widespread antibody testing to gain its “first true snapshot” of how many people have been infected with Covid-19. On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that preliminary results indicate an estimated 14.9% of New Yorkers have likely had Covid-19 after the state randomly tested 7,500 people at grocery stores and shopping locations.
Cuomo also said the state would expand its antibody testing survey to further determine the spread of infections among frontline workers and first responders.
State officials don’t know the true number of infections because they haven’t been able to conduct diagnostic coronavirus testing on a large scale, Cuomo said. New York City will need to run hundreds of thousands of tests a day before officials can begin easing social distancing guidelines, de Blasio said last week.
“We have to be ready to push into that phase, that low-level transmission phase, that we all want to get to,” de Blasio said. “We have to have all the building blocks in place even while we’re fighting to get the testing we need, we have to have the building blocks in place.”