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Most new COVID-19 patients in NY not working, older: survey

May 7, 2020 Karen Matthews, Marina Villeneuve and Michael Hill Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — The great majority of people newly hospitalized with the coronavirus in New York are either retired or unemployed and are avoiding public transit, according to a new state survey, the first such look at people still getting seriously ill despite six weeks of severe social distancing.

The survey of 1,269 patients admitted to 113 hospitals over three recent days confounded expectations that new cases would be dominated by essential workers, especially those regularly traveling on subways and buses.

Retirees accounted for 37 percent of the people hospitalized. Another 46 percent were unemployed. Almost three-quarters were 51 years or older. Only 17 percent were working.

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Only 4 percent were still using public transportation in their daily life, they survey found, though it also noted that information on transit use was only available for about half the people surveyed.

“We were thinking that maybe we were going to find a higher percentage of essential employees who were getting sick because they were going to work, that these may be nurses, doctors, transit workers. That’s not the case,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at his daily briefing.

The survey also showed, however, that 18 percent of the people admitted to hospitals with the virus had been transferred from nursing homes, underscoring the difficulty those facilities have had controlling infections.

People walked by ambulances parked outside NewYork–Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says most COVID-19 patients coming into New York hospitals are not working and not traveling daily and tend to be older than 50. Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP

People were far less likely to be hospitalized in other institutional settings. Fewer than 1 percent were in jails; 4 percent were in assisted living; 2 percent in congregate housing and 2 percent were homeless.

The survey also found that African-Americans and Hispanics were being hospitalized at far greater rates that whites, mirroring other studies.

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The state’s survey of newly hospitalized patients matches what doctors are seeing in the field, said Dr. Frederick Davis, emergency room physician at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

“Many of the patients that are presenting now are older. Early on we saw a wide range of individuals that were presenting with respiratory symptoms. As time has gone on we have seen more presentations in the older populations,” he said.

With expanded availability of testing, Davis said, younger patients with milder symptoms are getting treated at home or by their primary care physicians. People still working also now know, unlike in March, that the virus is very widespread, so they are taking additional precautions.

“I believe those that are on the frontlines have been heeding warnings and have taken the necessary precaution with the right protection to limit their risk of infection,” Davis said.

A patient was moved by medical workers at Maimonides Medical Center on Wednesday. Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP

Here are the latest coronavirus-related developments in New York:

Antibody testing

New York City will test 140,000 people for coronavirus antibodies between next week and early June, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.

The antibody tests, which indicate whether a person has been infected with the virus at some point, will be offered for free by appointment at five locations around the city, de Blasio said. The results will be available to the individual in one to two days and will also be used for epidemiological research, he said.

Researchers have said it is unclear whether antibodies for the coronavirus provide immunity or whether people who test positive for the antibodies can still be sickened by the virus.

“We are not promising people a rose garden here,” de Blasio said. “We’re not saying the antibody test is the last word. It’s not. But it tells you something.”

The city will use tests made by BioReference Laboratories for the free testing program.

Blood tests are different from the nasal swab tests currently used to diagnose active COVID-19 infections. Instead, the tests look for blood proteins called antibodies, which the body produces days or weeks after fighting an infection. Most use a finger-prick of blood on a test strip.

A patient was moved by an EMT at Maimonides Medical Center. Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP

Evictions moratorium

New York’s moratorium on outbreak-related evictions was extended Thursday for two more months by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The governor in March had issued a moratorium that lasted through June, but said he wanted to reduce the anxiety of families struggling through the economic shutdown. It is now extended until Aug. 20.

“I hope it gives families a deep breath,” Cuomo said at his daily briefing.

The executive order will also ban late payment fees for missed payments and allow renters to apply their security deposit to a payment, though they’d have to pay it back over time.

Villeneuve and Hill contributed from Albany, N.Y.


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