20% of NYC May Have Already Had Coronavirus, Antibody Tests Show
One-fifth of New York City may have already had the new coronavirus, initial results of antibody testing suggest.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo reported the findings Thursday, which showed that, out of 3,000 randomly tested New Yorkers, 13.9 percent had been infected with the virus and recovered. Extrapolated to the state's population at large, that would mean 2.7 million New Yorkers had been infected, more than ten times the state's confirmed caseload, NBC New York reported. The findings lend credence to the idea that the virus is spreading more widely than testing has so far indicated.
"This basically quantifies what we've been seeing anecdotally and what we have known," Cuomo said in a press conference reported by NPR, "but it puts numbers to it."
Percent positive by region: Long Island: 16.7% NYC: 21.2% Westchester/Rockland: 11.7% Rest of state: 3.6% (Weighted results)— Andrew Cuomo (@Andrew Cuomo)1587657739.0
New York City, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, had the highest percentage of positive results. Out of around 1,300 people tested in the city, around 21 percent tested positive for the virus antibodies, The New York Times reported.
New York undertook the tests because, as NPR explained, testing for infection with the virus has been limited, meaning mild or asymptomatic cases don't make it into the official tally, which stood at 263,460 as of Friday morning Eastern Time. The tests were conducted outside grocery stores in 19 New York counties.
The New York Times explained the difference between these tests and the tests administered to symptomatic patients:
Unlike so-called diagnostic tests, which determine whether someone is infected, often using nasal swabs, blood tests for Covid-19 antibodies are intended to reveal whether a person was previously exposed and has developed an immune response. Some tests also measure the amount of antibodies present.
While the antibody tests indicate a higher case load, they also suggest a lower death rate. As of Friday morning, the virus had killed at least 20,982 in New York state and 16,388 in New York City. If only confirmed cases are included, the state death rate is around eight percent. If 2.7 million were infected, however, it would fall to around 0.8 percent.
Cuomo said part of the reason for conducting the tests was to guide the process of lifting lockdown measures.
"The testing also can tell you the infection rate in the population — where it's higher, where it's lower — to inform you on a reopening strategy," Cuomo said, as The New York Times reported. "Then when you start reopening, you can watch that infection rate to see if it's going up and if it's going up, slow down."
But public health experts have cautioned against relying too heavily on antibody tests to ease social distancing measures.
"It means a lot of us in NYC have been infected. But that's not surprising news — we've seen high levels of cases for over a month," emergency room doctor and Ebola survivor Craig Spencer tweeted of the results, as NBC New York reported. "It means the virus is STILL spreading in NYC. It means that the MAJORITY of us are still very susceptible! It means we still need to #StayHome."
It means a lot of us in NYC have been infected. But that's not surprising news - we've seen high levels of cases fo… https://t.co/azBXKDEcCK— Craig Spencer MD MPH (@Craig Spencer MD MPH)1587669665.0
The World Health Organization has recommended the tests only be used for research purposes, according to The New York Times, and not to make decisions about who can return to work.
"I'm very ambivalent about these tests, because we don't really know yet through the science what it means to have an antibody," Dr. Joan Cangiarella, the vice-chair of clinical operations at NYU Langone Health's pathology department, told The New York Times. "We are hoping these antibodies mean you will be immune for some time, but I don't think the data is fully out there to understand if that means that you're actually immune. And if these antibodies start to decline, what's that time frame? Does it decline in a year from now?" she asked.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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