Comment: Of course it's 'less fatal than previously thought'. But they already knew that. They're just 'letting you down gently'...

© Reuters/Thomas Peter
Early antibody testing for the coronavirus in 19 New York counties suggests up to 2.7 million people could have been infected in the state alone, meaning the real death rate may be much lower, Governor Andrew Cuomo has revealed.

Results from a random testing sample of 3,000 New Yorkers have revealed that some 13.9 percent of state residents have likely had and recovered from the coronavirus, Cuomo stated in a press conference on Thursday.

While the governor cautioned that the results were preliminary and varied county by county, he still managed to throw the perception of the virus as a mortal threat for New Yorkers into question. The new numbers indicate that this revised infection rate, compared to 15,740 deaths linked to coronavirus statewide, points to a fatality rate of only about 0.5 - much lower than previously believed.

New York is the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic in the US, and New York City has been hardest hit given its high population density. However, even in the city, where 21.2 percent tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies (1.77 million people) during this trial, a casualty count of 15,000 deaths points to a fatality rate of 0.8 percent.

Outside the city, the rates are lower - Long Island residents tested positive at a rate of 16.7 percent, while Westchester and Rockland Counties were 11.7 percent positive. The rest of the state returned much lower results at 3.6 percent.

Cuomo has acknowledged that the virus does not menace the entire state equally and spoke earlier this week of reopening upstate regions before dealing with the densely-populated metropolitan areas. However, he recently extended the state's lockdown until mid-May and cautioned against permitting anyone to go back to work without widespread testing.

The antibody tests were conducted at grocery and "big box" stores in 40 locations across 19 New York counties, and did not include bedridden patients or those too sick to venture out of their homes. However, the results support the conclusions of researchers in Santa Clara, California and Chelsea, Massachusetts, who found similar widespread asymptomatic and mild infection in populations previously believed to be unaffected by the virus.