With New York Governor Andrew Cuomo giving his press briefing from a different location on Sunday, April 19, at Northwell Health in Manhattan—the gathered press now all wearing face masks—he announced that New York State would begin conducting sweeping antibody testing on thousands of New Yorkers over the coming week.
Antibody tests, as opposed to the chemical-reagent-heavy COVID-19 kits that the governor spoke of over the past few day, test to see whether a person has already had COVID-19 (in other words, if they have the antibody present in their system, it will notify experts that they had the virus). “We’re going to do [antibody testing] in the most aggressive way in the nation, where we’re going to sample thousands of people across the state to find out if they have the antibodies,” said Cuomo. It’s unclear who will be tested and when—Cuomo did say it would be “random”—but he did say that the New York State Department of Health would be running the testing program and that 2,000 tests would be done per day. “That will tell us, for the first time, what percent of the population actually has had the coronavirus and is now, at least short term, immune to the virus.”
Overall, the governor’s message today seemed more positive than usual. Total hospitalizations and intubations were down again, and the total number of COVID-19-related deaths dipped to 507 on April 18, down from 540 on April 17. Even the total number of new COVID-19 patients at hospitals was down substantially, from about 2,000 the previous day to 1,300. (New York State is still leading the entire nation with more than 240,000 COVID-19 cases, and more than 18,000 total deaths.) Cuomo mostly talked in the past tense about New York’s COVID-19 crisis, even noting that the state was ready to send 400 ventilators to neighbor Massachusetts, if and when it needed them.
Additionally, Cuomo’s message was that, in order for the state to reach its second phase following the immediate crisis—the one in which the state would eventually reopen the economy—the state would need to follow a three-step process: first, to “do no harm” (i.e. that once the infection rate is down, to keep it down); second, “be smarter” (not to “get cocky” and open businesses and large public gatherings too soon); and third, “learn lessons” (to take what the state has learned from the past and use it to make the future reopening safer and more prepared than it was before).