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New York’s Antibody Testing Spree Could Be a Game Changer

New York’s Antibody Testing Spree Could Be a Game Changer

New York City remains under seemingly interminable pandemic lockdown. But as researchers around the globe chase the promise of antibody tests—which have faced criticism for their mixed accuracy and dubious reputation as harbingers of COVID-19-immunity—a new wave of such testing in America’s largest city offered a glimmer of hope. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday detailed a plan to ramp up antibody testing locally, and specifically to survey about 140,000 people over two weeks in order to “understand COVID-19 spread and provide New Yorkers with more clarity,” as his office explained. Five testing sites will be set up in each of the five boroughs, according to the mayor, the idea being to provide free tests to 1,000 people per day by appointment through a hotline. Results from the tests will be available within 24 to 48 hours, he said.

So-called serology, or antibody, tests can determine if a person recently had the infection and may—may—have developed enough of the right kind of immune response to offer some protection from illness. De Blasio’s announcement came a few days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo detailed the results of a New York State antibody initiative that tested 150,000 people and concluded roughly one in five NYC residents had been infected. 

While projects like these barely make a dent in the population of America’s number one COVID-19 hotzone, they have the potential to provide serious insight into what percentage of New Yorkers, from what neighborhoods, and in what demographics, have had the novel coronavirus, experts said. That, in turn, represents a key pillar of what epidemiologists tend to describe as a precondition for responsibly reopening hard-hit areas. 

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