Gov. Andrew Cuomo in June announced that New York’s seven-day average of Covid-19 positivity rates was 0.5% – the state’s lowest since it began testing in March 2020. According to Johns Hopkins University data, that ties New York with Massachusetts in having the lowest positivity rate in the nation.
In January, Mount Sinai Health System was recording about a 10% positivity rate among its patients, said Dr. David Reich, the hospital’s president. That same month, when Northwell Health’s Covid-19 testing labs were in full force, running 16,000 tests per day during the second surge, its positivity rate was about 12%.
Positivity rates have fallen since January because of a combination of factors, said Anna Bershteyn, assistant professor in the population health department at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine. Part of the reason is seasonality, experts agree. Although it’s not clear why, coronaviruses (including Covid-19) do not spread as quickly in warmer weather. In the summer, positivity rates fell after a surge, though rates were still higher back then than they are now, Bershteyn said.
The strong push for Covid-19 vaccines since they became available in December has been another key factor. With the state moving closer to herd immunity, including people who developed antibodies from a previous Covid-19 infection, New York’s rate fell precipitously in June. In fact, New York hit the 70% minimum threshold for herd immunity in mid-June.
There are concerns, however, that cases could spike again. It also remains to be seen what the severity of a combined flu and Covid-19 season will look like.
Health experts continue to exalt that testing should be emphasized even amid low positivity rates, because detected cases could be identified and quarantined more effectively, Reich said. Data has shown that rigorous testing correlates to lower Covid rates, he added.
Johns Hopkins data shows that New York had a testing rate of 560 per 100,000 individuals, the second highest after Rhode Island. Alabama, which had one of the lowest testing rates, 47.3 tests per 100,000 people, also had the nation’s highest Covid-19 positivity rate: 13.5%.
“Especially with schoolchildren who have yet to be able to take the vaccine, we need to ensure that mass screenings and some sensible precautions, such as mask wearing in certain situations, remain in place,” Reich said.
Source: Crain’s New York Business