Newswise — ALBANY, N.Y. (June 18, 2020) - Recent work from the University at Albany School of Public Health and the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) shows that over 2 million adults in New York were infected with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, through late March 2020. Moreover, cumulative incidence (the number of people infected since the beginning of the pandemic) was higher among Latinx, Black and Asian adults than White adults.

Data for the paper, published in Annals of Epidemiology, were gathered by NYSDOH at grocery stores in 26 New York counties between April 19-28. Participants were recruited as they entered the stores, where data on age, sex, race and ethnicity were collected and finger prick tests were used to collect small blood samples for testing.

UAlbany researchers in partnership with scientists at NYSDOH and NYSDOH Wadsworth Center then led the analysis on cumulative incidence using this data collected by the state. The sample of 15,101 adult participants was adjusted to reflect New York’s demographics and test performance characteristics so that an estimate could be projected for statewide cumulative incidence.

“Our 35-year partnership with NYSDOH enabled our UAlbany team — already experienced in these kind of studies and in collaboration with our colleagues at NYSDOH — to analyze the data to produce timely statistics of relevance to addressing the pandemic,” said Eli Rosenberg, lead author of the study and an associate professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. “This paper provides the first information in the country on statewide cumulative incidence, along with details on disparities by race and ethnicity, sex and age.”

Understanding which factors may contribute to differences in infection among New York subpopulations may help to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, and may also help reduce disparities shown in fatality.  

While the study indicates that over 2 million adults were infected in New York, the researchers note that this is about 14 percent of the state’s adults. It is believed that about 50 to 70 percent of a population would have to be infected to reach herd immunity, which enables those who are not immune to have some indirect protection from contracting the disease. These results emphasize that, at the time of the study, New York was not close to reaching herd immunity.

“These data show that we have a long road ahead as we fight COVID-19. It’s important to heed recommendations for continued physical distancing, handwashing and other preventative measures,” Rosenberg said. “As New York reopens, these measures will play a critical role to reduce the spread of the disease, lessen the burden on our healthcare system and, ultimately, save lives.

Journal Link: Annals of Epidemiology