Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans for a citywide antibody survey that will test a total of 140,000 New Yorkers on top of the 140,000 allocated for first responders and health care workers in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
“So many New Yorkers are wondering whether they've had the virus or if they've exposed their own families," said de Blasio. "While antibody tests are not a fix-all solution, they will give our communities the knowledge they need to help us defeat this virus together."
The first survey, which began Tuesday, will test 70,000 New Yorkers in a two-week window with the capacity to administer up to 5,000 tests a day. A second round of testing will be conducted in early June.
Offered free of charge, the tests are available by appointment only at one of five new community testing sites throughout the five boroughs, including one in LIC and one in East New York. Residents can schedule tests at nyc.bioreference.com or by calling(888) 279-0967.
Before receiving a blood test, participants will be asked basic questions about their demographics and employment in order for the city to gain a better idea of how the disease is affecting various populations. Results are returned between 24 and 48 hours.
Antibody tests can indicate if a person has been previously infected with novel coronavirus, but they are not always accurate. The CDC notes that not only is there potential for false positives, but some people might take a longer time to develop antibodies, if at all.
Those who are currently infected with COVID-19 will also show a negative result.
Still, officials are hopeful that antibody testing will prove a powerful tool for better understanding the outbreak’s spread.
“For New York, a city that has been seriously impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, this type of information will be of great value in helping healthcare professionals analyze the presence and progression of the disease in order to identify at risk populations for possible early intervention,” said Dr. Jon Cohen, executive chairman of BioReference Laboratories.
As the City attempts to make sense of the virus' movement, the mayor revealed a simultaneous expansion of an evolving equity plan that seeks to address the needs of communities hardest hit by the pandemic. The fourth pillar of that plan involves tele-medicine.
In an effort to make healthcare more accessible for those who may not have a provider, NYC Health+Hospitals is growing the capacity of its Phone-a-Clinician Hotline (844-NYC-4NYC) to handle 4,000 calls per day.
The hotline is free for anyone exhibiting symptoms or who has questions about COVID-19.
As a result, the health system will aim to provide New Yorkers with 16,000 tele-visits a day, accounting for 80 percent of the city’s ambulatory visits. Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, the city has completed 60,000 tele-health visits at more than 300 clinics citywide.
“This disease tracks with profound health care disparities that we already knew existed in our city, and it's only made them worse,” de Blasio said at a recent news conference.
“There's still so many questions,” he added, “and the best thing is to know there's some place to turn where you can talk to a medical professional and get answers.”