Story at a glance

  • New estimates from antibody tests for roughly 45,000 New Yorkers show that nearly a quarter of residents statewide could have had COVID-19 at one time during the pandemic’s first wave last spring.
  • But the antibody survey found that Black and Hispanic residents were nearly twice as likely as white New Yorkers to have antibodies for the coronavirus.
  • Researchers noted that nearly one-quarter of participants “with comorbidity information reported at least one chronic condition.”

New estimates from the antibody test results of roughly 45,000 New Yorkers show that nearly a quarter of residents statewide had COVID-19 at one time during the pandemic’s first wave last spring. 

But the antibody survey found that Black and Hispanic residents were nearly twice as likely as white New Yorkers to have antibodies for the coronavirus. About 35 percent of Hispanics tested had antibodies while 33.5 percent of Black residents showed signs of previous infection. 

Meanwhile, 16 percent of non-Hispanic white participants tested positive, according to researchers at the city Health Department and The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. 

There have been more than 2 million reported cases of COVID-19 in New York since March 2020. 

Researchers noted that nearly one-quarter of participants “with comorbidity information reported at least one chronic condition, most commonly hypertension.” Additionally, there was a greater prevalence of antibodies in people who were overweight to severely obese. 


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The survey also found a lower rate of asymptomatic cases than what is commonly reported. 

“While it has been suggested that 40–45% of SARS-CoV-2 infections are asymptomatic, we found that 21% of serosurvey participants with antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 did not report a COVID19-like illness,” the researchers wrote.

The researchers listed a few possibly significant limitations to their study. For example, use of convenience sampling could have led people who believed they were exposed to the virus to seek testing. Between May 13 and July 21, the group used media, the Internet and local ads to offer the public information regarding the free antibody tests. 

Further, there was a marked underrepresentation of Black and Hispanic residents, and there were “substantially higher testing levels among non-Hispanic whites,” the group added.

“Lower representation of certain subgroups with higher infection rates – such as Black and Hispanic individuals – could underestimate true seroprevalence,” the researchers wrote.


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Published on Apr 21, 2021