New York to test for antibodies, governor mandates face covering

New York (AFP)

New York has developed its own antibody test that could help detect those immune to coronavirus as the state looks to gradually end its shutdown, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

He made the announcement as he ordered all residents of the state — the epicenter of America’s coronavirus outbreak — to cover their faces when in stores or using public transit.

Closed store fronts in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, on April 15, 2020 in New York City
Closed store fronts in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, on April 15, 2020 in New York City Johannes EISELE AFP

Cuomo said 2,000 people would be tested a day, as he works on a plan for a phased reopening of New York, without speeding up the spread of COVID-19 again, following its weeks-long shutdown.

“We’re going to prioritize the antibody testing for first responders and essential workers,” Cuomo told reporters. “It’s a finger prick test so it’s not terribly invasive.”

Officials are battling with how to get crippled economies up and running again without increasing the rate of infections as the world awaits a vaccine for the deadly virus.

Cuomo said he had a “blueprint” centered on testing residents for the virus, and then tracing and isolating those who have it to control the spread.

Health officials believe antibody tests that have just entered the market and look for whether a person has been previously infected are crucial in answering questions about immunity.

It isn’t yet clear whether people who were previously infected will be immune and if so for how long, experts say.

Cuomo announced that another 752 New Yorkers had died from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours. He failed to give un updated toll but that number would take statewide deaths past 11,000.

The illness has claimed more than 27,000 lives across the United States, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Cuomo said he would sign a decree that would come into effect in three days requiring that everyone in the state cover their mouth and nose when unable to maintain social distancing outside.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been recommending that US citizens wear masks since April 3.

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