Health experts predict that some low-income neighborhoods in New York City may be protected from a possible second wave of coronavirus because so many of their residents were already infected.
New data from CityMD showed that working-class neighborhoods in the outer suburban areas test for antibodies significantly faster than wealthier, whiter neighborhoods closer to Manhattan.
The Corona neighborhood in Queens, which was significantly affected by infections during the city’s worst coronavirus outbreak, yielded 68 percent positive test results for antibodies at the CityMD clinic, according to data provided to the New York Times.
The area is predominantly Spanish with construction and restaurant residents putting them at greater risk of infection as they continue to work through the worst pandemic.
Latin American neighborhoods like Corona and Jackson Heights in Queens tested higher for coronavirus antibodies than whiter, wealthier neighborhoods like Cobble Hill
The Corona district of Queens, which was significantly affected by infections during the city’s worst coronavirus outbreak, yielded 68% positive test results for antibodies
In Cobble Hill. Brooklyn, (shown), only 13 percent tested positive for antibodies
The same goes for Jackson Heights, Queens, where 56 percent tested positive for antibodies.
But in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, a white and affluent neighborhood, there was only a 13 percent positive return on antibody tests.
The results have led some medical workers to predict that these affluent neighborhoods could be vulnerable if the coronavirus outbreaks see a new wave in the city.
The Big Apple coronavirus outbreak has already been shown to have a greater and more deadly impact on lower-income black and Hispanic communities.
They remained hardest hit in the city’s boroughs, uncovering major income inequalities as wealthier residents fled to vacation retreats or had the greater resources to ensure they could keep social distance or work from home.
However, if a second wave were to strike, the impact could be turned upside down with wealthier communities now more vulnerable to infection.
In poorer communities, so many inhabitants may already have had coronavirus that further spread would be difficult.
The neighborhoods could have been granted immunity to the herd, where people are protected from previous exposure to the virus.
It is predicted that at least 60 percent of the population will require immunity to a disease before immunity to the herd can occur.
“Some communities may have herd immunity,” said Dr. Daniel Frogel, a senior vice president of operations for CityMD, at the New York Times.
Dr. Ted Long, the executive director of the city’s contact tracking program, agreed, but warned that any antibody protection is not yet certain.
“We hope that increases immunity to the herd,” he said.
The tests conducted by CityMD were conducted between the end of April and the end of June. They showed a 26 percent positive test rate of the 314,000 antibody tests performed in New York City.
The results were generally in line with a comprehensive study of the amount of antibodies completed by New York State, which found that about 21.6 percent of New York City residents had antibodies.
CityMD data showed that poorer communities like Jackson Heights tested higher for antibodies, leading some to believe that there could be herd immunity if a second wave hits
However, when City’s MD data was limited to neighborhoods, they showed a big spike in positive test rates in places like Corona and Jackson Heights.
The Bronx, which suffered the most coronavirus deaths, also had about 37 percent of the antibody tests that returned positive.
The New York State results had little data for Queens, but showed a similar trend for Brooklyn’s Flushing neighborhood, where 45 percent tested positive for antibodies.
“In the future, the contamination rate in minority communities should really be lower,” advised Kitaw Demissie, epidemiologist and dean of the School of Public Health at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn.
However, some experts warn that many positive antibody tests cannot predict how a community will fare if a second wave hits the city.
“It is premature to discuss the immunity of the herd, as we are still learning what the presence of Covid-19 antibodies means to an individual and whether, or for how long, that immunity transfers; and we don’t know how the level of immunity in a single community translates to herd immunity, “Jonah Bruno, a spokesman for the Department of Health, told the Times.
The accuracy of antibody tests is not always certain and how previous infection by coronavirus transfer to immunity is not yet known.
And testing doesn’t always give an accurate picture of a community’s infection rate. While 68 percent of the antibody tests were positive in Corona, that’s not the same as 68 percent of the population living with coronavirus.
“Certainly, those looking for antibody tests are more likely to be positive than the general population,” said Professor Nash.
“If you went out in Corona and tested a representative sample, it wouldn’t be 68 percent.”
The presence of antibodies cannot prevent people from becoming infected again. With so much to learn about the new virus, the potential for herd immunity and its ability to protect a community from a second wave has yet to be discovered.
Those who live in wealthier communities will also have access to the same privileges that have helped them avoid the first wave, including better access to health care, the ability to leave the city, social distance, or keep working from home.
In contrast, homes in Corona have been shown to have one of the highest percentages of home families, and with transmission among family members a major factor in the spread of the disease, it still leaves these communities exposed.
Richer New Yorkers could also take advantage of the fact that more is now known about the coronavirus than at the height of the Big Apple outbreak, and that medical personnel now have more experience in treating more serious cases.
It means that the rich may be more vulnerable if exposed, but more available to prevent that exposure, while poorer residents are still facing the outbreak.
“Our plan didn’t really accommodate essential workers because it was people who had the privilege – for lack of a better word – to distance themselves socially,” said Professor Nash, adding that if there was a new wave, NYC access should have to how protects the construction, restaurant and grocers.
New York City has now entered phase three of reopening, enabling personal care services and more outdoor spaces to open after being closed for months.
Nail salons, tanning salons and tattoo parlors welcome customers from Monday after closing since March. However, capacity is limited to 50 percent, everyone should wear face cover and workplaces should be disinfected after every customer.
Dog parks, basketball courts and tennis courts are also open on Mondays.
Indoor dining, which would be reopened in phase 3, remains closed for security reasons, however. Casinos and cinemas will also remain closed.
This week, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city’s COVID-19 positivity test has dropped to just one percent. It’s a victory for the city that was the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, and 71 percent of COVID-19 tests come back positive at the height of the crisis.