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Cuomo: Antibody study suggests 7.1% coronavirus infection rate in WNY

The state's most recent antibody testing suggested that 7.1% of Western New Yorkers have been infected with the coronavirus, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday.

"Western New York is the high point upstate," Cuomo said.

The preliminary results of the testing suggested that the statewide number was 14.9%.

The tests for people who tested positive for the Covid-19 antibody were drawn from an expanded sample size of about 7,500, Cuomo said during his daily coronavirus briefing from Albany.

The antibody tests, conducted on people in supermarkets and retail stores, show how many people have been infected with Covid-19 and then produced antibodies to it as they recovered.

The state did a first round of antibody testing on April 22, which showed a statewide number of 13.9% positive. Upstate regional numbers were not released after the first round.

New York City's infection rate was shown to be 24.7%, Long Island's was 14.4%, Westchester and Rockland counties had a 15.1% rate and the remainder of the state was 3.2%.

Of the 7,000 participants in the testing, 43% were from New York City, 14% were from Long Island, 7% were from Westchester and Rockland while 36% were from the remainder of the state.

Western New York's 7.1% was the second highest of the eight upstate regions. It was the highest of the seven regions north of the Hudson Valley region, which includes Westchester and Rockland counties and had an infection rate of 10.4%.

Other upstate regions were at 2.7% or below.

The Finger Lakes region, which includes Rochester, was at 2.7%, the Mohawk Valley was 2.6%, the Southern Tier was 2.4%, the Capital Region was 2.1%, Central New York was 1.3% and the North Country was 1.2%.

"There are different situations, and we will have different strategies going forward," Cuomo said regarding the different rates and their relationship to reopening different parts of the state. "We are coordinating as a state, we're coordinating with our neighboring states, but you still have to take into consideration the variations across the state, and that's what we're trying to navigate."

Cuomo acknowledged that the World Health Organization has said there is no guarantee that people who have produced antibodies to Covid-19 are immune to further infections.

"You have the antibodies – maybe you're immune, maybe you're not," he said.

Reopening by region

New York's "pause" restrictions, which currently expire on May 15, will be reevaluated on a regional basis, Cuomo said. He discussed a two-phase plan for reopening the state on Sunday.

"I will extend them in many parts of the state," Cuomo said. "But in many regions, you could make the case we can unpause on May 15. But we have to be smart about it. Because if you are not smart, you will see that infection rate right back where it was … and no one wants to do that."

Sunday's daily death total was 337, down from 367 Saturday and the second day in the 300s after about a week in the 400-range. New York has lost 17,303 lives due to the coronavirus.

Hospitalization rates continued to decline, with the daily number of Covid-19 cases entering hospitals down to about 1,000 after the number hovered around 1,300 last week.

Cuomo mentioned several factors that will be taken into account for reopening. Regions will have to see a 14-day decline in coronavirus rates, then will phase in construction and manufacturing industries.

Regions will then have to assess what kind of precautions, including social distance and monitoring of employees' temperatures, are being put into place by businesses in their areas.

Regions will need to know their health care system's capacity, factoring in this year's flu season. The state will also need answers for what kind of testing regimen, tracing system and isolation facilities regions will have, and there will need to be regional coordination with reopening, the governor said.

Cuomo also listed "no attractive nuisances" on the list that regions would need to consider before "un-pausing."

"We can’t open an attraction that may draw people from outside the region," he said. "We don’t want to see a situation where people flood an area because they’re looking for something to do."

Asked whether holding Buffalo Bills training camp in July would be possible, Cuomo said, "I’ll tell you at the end of June.”

Talk with Trump

Cuomo said he talked with President Trump Monday morning, saying they discussed planning for a possible second Covid wave downstate during flu season.

The governor said he did not talk to Trump today about states' request for new unrestricted aid from Washington to fund operations of state/local governments (police, schools, etc.).

A reporter asked what time that the two talked – Cuomo did not provide an answer – because Trump tweeted at 10:41 a.m. today regarding states and funding:

"Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help?"

Cuomo again bristled at the term "bailout" and said "nobody puts more money into the pot than the state of New York."

"This is not the time to be talking about dollars and cents among members of a community that are trying to help each other," Cuomo said.

No more 'dumping milk'

The governor said the state is starting a new initiative to get upstate milk and other dairy products downstate where the need is great.

"It's a total waste to me," Cuomo said. "We have people downstate who need food, we have upstate farmers who can't sell their product. We have to put those things together."

Food bank help

Cuomo said the state would be committing $25 million for emergency funding for food banks that have been stressed during the coronavirus pandemic.

He said there had been a 200% increase at Westchester food banks, 100% increase in New York City and 40-60% across upstate New York.

"We're seeing a tremendous demand in food banks," Cuomo said.

Cuomo urged philanthropy groups to help the food banks. "Many philanthropies have said they wanted to help and step up," he said. "I would say this is the No. 1 thing they can do to help."

More Kentucky talk

Cuomo lauded Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear for criticizing Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, as Cuomo did several times last week, for the Senate majority leader's suggestion that states declare bankruptcy due to financial problems brought on by the coronavirus.

"Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear stood up and said to his senior senator in the state and said he was wrong," Cuomo said, of Beshear, a Democrat who was elected in November 2019. "It is hard for a governor, especially Andy, a relatively new governor, to stand up to a senior official and speak truth to power. That is hard. It takes guts, it takes courage, and you don't get that from a typical politician."

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