New York, April 24 (IANS) As deaths in New York City from COVID-19 has reached 16,388, a study has shown that at least one in five persons or 1.9 million there may have had the disease.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday that based on sample anti-body tests the study concluded that 22.1 per cent of the city’s 8.6 million residents had had COVID-19.
That would work out to 1.9 million, although officially only 263,460 confirmed cases have been reported.
The discrepancy points to about 1.5 million having had a milder attack or not having any symptoms or not sought treatment or testing.
A significant outcome of the study is that the death rate from the disease is much lower than the 6 per cent with the lower number of officially reported cases coming down to about 0.5 per cent using the higher number of cases from the study.
At the same time, the study points to higher risks from the large number of silent carriers of the disease unknowingly spreading it.
Unlike the test used to diagnose if a person has COVID-19, the anti-body test of the blood shows if a person has had had the disease by looking for anti-bodies produced by the body to fight it.
While in the case of many diseases having had it gives immunity, scientists say it may also happen with COVID-19 but it has not yet been definitively proven scientifically.
The study was based on 3,000 samples collected from 40 locations like shops around the state over two days starting on Monday
While sharing the results during his briefing, Cuomo said the findings were preliminary and put some caveats.
The people tested were outside their homes and were not those isolated at home the results could vary between the two groups.
“So we have to analyse that, what does that do to the numbers,” he said.
Officially, the first COVID-19 case in New York City was confirmed on March 1 when a healthcare worker who had travelled to Iran tested positive.
However, the wide prevalence of COVID-19 in the city’s population may indicate that the disease was circulating in the city much earlier.
Although the total number of cases and deaths continue to climb, the pandemic appears to be ebbing as the number of new cases reported is coming down, despite a small spike on Wednesday.
On April 18, Cuomo announced that the state had gone beyond the plateau and COVID-19 was declining.
(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)