NEW YORK — About 12% of state residents have been exposed to the COVID-19 coronavirus, according to the results from the first round of antibody testing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at his daily briefing Saturday in Queens.
More than 15,000 New Yorkers were tested for COVID-19 antibodies and preliminary results show exposure to the virus varies widely by region, Cuomo said.
Speaking in front of a train at an Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) maintenance facility in Queens, the governor fleshed out plans for disinfecting New York City’s public transit system, an initiative he first announced Thursday.
The state had 299 fatalities from COVID-19 on Friday, with 23 of those occurring in the nursing home population. Two Columbia County nursing homes — Pine Haven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and The Grand at Barnwell — have reported large outbreaks, with 35 Pine Haven residents and 37 Barnwell residents testing positive for the virus, county health officials said Friday.
The antibody survey revealed that one in five residents of New York City has been exposed to COVID-19 and developed antibodies, with the prevalence of antibodies shooting up to nearly 30% in the Bronx, the most of the five boroughs. Slightly more men than women have contracted COVID-19, a trend that requires further investigation, Cuomo said.
The numbers paint a different picture upstate. Preliminary estimates indicate that 3% of the population of the Hudson Valley, excluding Westchester and Rockland counties, has been exposed to COVID-19. Around 2% of the Capital District and central New York, and just 1.2% of the North Country’s population has been exposed, Cuomo said.
Results of the antibody survey, the largest such study performed nationwide, will be used to develop a baseline infection rate. The governor added the data would inform his strategy, but gave no indication of how reopening the state to business might be affected by the survey results.
Hospitals statewide continue to see about 900 new cases of coronavirus every day, which Cuomo called “unacceptably high.” Hospitals will be required to collect demographic data on patients who test positive for the virus, including age, gender, occupation and whether the person is a nursing home resident.
“We are trying to understand what can we do to refine our strategies to find out where those new cases being generated,” said Cuomo, later asking, “Are they frontline workers?”
State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker said April 25 the state had not been collecting demographics on COVID-19 patients and any demographic analysis would come after the pandemic has passed. But Cuomo reversed course Saturday and said he already spoke to hospital administrators about the need for demographic information to track new cases.
Acknowledging that the statewide shutdown has caused widespread economic hardship, Cuomo said food banks will receive a $25 million infusion from the state. Food banks in the Capital District and Hudson Valley will receive $4.4 million. Cuomo called on private donors to supplement the state funding to food banks.
“The state budget is stressed so we don’t have the funds to do what is needed,” he said.
Food banks have seen a surge in demand, compounded by the increase in unemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, said state Sen. Jen Metzger, D-42, while speaking on a Facebook Live event Thursday with representatives from food banks in Orange and Delaware counties.
Food insecurity is affecting a new constituency of people, many of whom have never needed food assistance or other services before now, said Dr. Shelly L. Bartow, executive director of Delaware Opportunities Inc., who participated in the event with Metzger. The demand for meals and supplies has tripled, Bartow added.
The new state funding for food banks will be used to buy from local producers, Cuomo said. On April 27, Cuomo announced the Nourish New York Initiative, which will supply food banks with dairy products produced in the state,
Cuomo was joined Saturday by officials from the MTA and he later toured the Transit Corona Maintenance Facility to learn about the process of disinfecting subway cars, which he called a “monumental undertaking.”
Transit workers will wear Hazmat suits to spray train surfaces with disinfectant, Cuomo said. Trains and buses will be cleaned every 24 hours, with service shut down between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. to complete the task.
Clearing out the subway stations to perform the nightly deep cleaning would not be possible without Mayor Bill de Blasio’s commitment to providing a robust police presence, said Pat Foye, MTA chairman and CEO. De Blasio has participated in planning meetings via Zoom, Foye added.
Clearing out the subway stations presents an opportunity to engage homeless people with social services, Cuomo said, repeating a point he made Thursday when first announcing the plan to disinfect each train every 24 hours.
“This is the first time that every homeless person, by definition, has to get off that train to disinfect the trains,” Cuomo said. “I think that is actually an opportunity to engage homeless people and find out what they need and try to link them up with the services and the help.”