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Coronavirus Antibody Testing Hopes To Shed Light On Extent Of Infections In New York

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- With hospitalizations on the decline, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday the state is ramping up the most aggressive COVID-19 antibody testing in the country.

It will help determine whose immune system has essentially fought the coronavirus, and how to reopen the economy.

The Med-Rite on West 42nd Street is one of several across our region that started testing last week. One location already administered more than 100 tests, but still, some say the state's rollout is nowhere near the demand, and there's many questions about the test's accuracy, reported CBS2's Lisa Rozner.

West Village resident Adam Weiss believes he was one of the first to get a vial of blood taken for an antibody test Friday. The blood test sees if you made antibodies, which is what humans use to fight off the infection.

He walked into Med-Rite without an appointment. The urgent care center takes insurance for the test or without insurance, the care center charges $175 out of pocket for the test.

He has been wondering if he had the virus after taking 25 flights in the last three months, including spending time in Miami and at a conference in Washington, D.C.


"I had this cold like I never had before, tired," he said.

The results came back negative Monday.

Med-Rite and practices like New York Internal Medicine in Whitestone are utilizing tests produced by Brooklyn-based Lenco Labs.

Lenco is one of around 100 companies offering antibody testing after the FDA announced there would be regulatory flexibility without its usual standard formal review because antibody tests have the potential to answer complex questions regarding when we can return to work.

The FDA is requiring all companies to validate their results to ensure it is accurate and reliable and provide those results to the FDA. The tests must be conducted in high-complexity laboratories including commercial facilities or public health labs.

The FDA has granted emergency-use authorization of the tests to a select few, including Mount Sinai laboratory. Emergency use authorization means the organization can use an unapproved medical product in an emergency to diagnose, treat or prevent serious or life-threatening diseases when there is no available approved alternative. Mount Sinai received 35 thousand requests for the test and so far has screened 6,000 people, and identified 1,000 with high antibodies.

"Even a very small false positive rate could lead to hundreds of thousands of people being told that they're safe, when they might not be," said Dr. Ania Wajnberg, the director of Mount Sinai's antibody testing program.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

New York state is using its own finger-stick blood test, and starting Monday samples of 3,000 people are being collected for a population of 19.5 million.

The governor says patrons of supermarkets around the state will be recruited at random for testing.

Pollsters find a sample size of 1,000 is a good marker with a very low margin of error, but Dr. Bruce Y. Lee of CUNY's Graduate School of Public Health says it's only a start.

"That alone is not going to help relax social distancing measures or reopen the country or the state or the city," he said. "To do that you have to know more specifically who has been exposed and is potentially immune and who hasn't, and that's going to require a lot broader testing."

PHOTO GALLERY: A Look Inside NYC's Viral 'Warzone'

Dr. Steven Spitalnik has overseen the development of a test distributed to some health staff at Columbia and New York-Presbyterian hospitals.

"We also do another nasal swab to see if they're still positive. Between 14 and 28 days after resolution of symptoms, we and others have found up to 30 percent of individuals are still positive by the nasal swab, and they have antibodies too," he said.

New York state has not said if you test positive whether you can use result to return to work sooner than later. Another big piece is coordinating the result between the state and the federal government.

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