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Cuomo says new coronavirus antibody test could be key to getting New York back to work

April 7, 2020 Mary Frost
This graphic shows the structure of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), named for the spikes on the outer surface that look like a corona. Graphic: CDC
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday that the state Department of Health has developed a test for serum antibodies to the novel coronavirus, “which means you’re no longer contagious and you can’t catch it.”

While experts have said that those who recover from the coronavirus will most likely be immune, at least in the short-term, it’s not yet known how long that immunity will last.

The antibody test, and a separate 15-minute test for infection with the virus, are the key to getting people back to work in the future, Cuomo told reporters.

The issue now is developing the tests at a large enough scale for the state’s 19 million people, Cuomo said. The state has only enough serum test capacity to test 50,000 people so far, and will be offering investment capital to private companies who want to develop it on a mass basis.

State DOH Commissioner Howard Zucker said the test was developed at the state’s Wadsworth Labs, and New York would have to work with the FDA to get approval before production could be scaled up.

While there are other serum antibody tests out there, New York has developed a version that measures just Immunoglobulin G, which indicates the infection has resolved, Zucker said.

Other tests measure both Immunoglobulin G and Immunoglobulin M, which is present in the blood when a person is still fighting an infection. Last week the FDA approved on an expedited basis a test made by the company Cellex, which detects both the G and M immunoglobulin types. Zucker said that this type of test would not be able to distinguish whether the individual still had the infection or had recovered.

Cuomo said the effort to restart the economy will be carried out as a tri-state effort with New Jersey and Connecticut.

As of Tuesday morning, New York City reported 72,324 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3,202 deaths. Broken down by boroughs there were 24,115 confirmed cases in Queens, 19,499 in Brooklyn, 14,421 in the Bronx, 10,098 in Manhattan and 4,154 in Staten Island.

The number of cases and deaths statewide surged to 139,836 confirmed cases and 5,489 deaths after a dip over the weekend.

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