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Getting A Covid-19 Antibody Test In An Old New York City Factory

Finding out how bad this really is.

Coronavirus mask
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ASTORIA, NYC- The mayor of New York City proudly declared that a widespread Covid-19 antibody survey was about to begin and any New Yorker looking to find out if they had the virus could get tested for free.

Cool — free stuff.

I called up a nearby testing facility and their recording said that they no longer had capacity to answer their phones but they were offering the antibody test for free. Cool. I went over there, stood in a long line for over a half hour, and then when I was up the receptionist asked for my insurance card. Isn’t this free? You have to pay the lab. Your recording said it was free. It’s free for us but you have to pay the lab. How much is it? Somewhere between $55 and $100.

Fuck that.

Fail.

Covid-19 signThe following day NYC announced the locations of their officially sanctioned testing facilities and I made an appointment. I loaded the address into my map app and it looked a little odd. For all I knew there was nothing but factories there. Oh well. I picked up a michelada from a bodega and did the half hour walk towards Queensboro Plaza. I crossed the railroad tracks and through the expanse of massive block-like industrial buildings until I turned a corner and saw my line.

There were probably around 100 people gathered to find out if they had antibodies for C19 — so much for social distancing and the ban on large groups. I grumbled to the people standing in front of me — Don’t we have appointments? Why is the line so long?

But it went fast.

Line for Covid-19 antibody testAt some point I began wondering where the line led. It seemed to go up the street and taking a left into the bowels what appeared to be a giant old factory. We couldn’t possibly be getting tested in a factory, right?

When I got far enough up in line to make the turn I saw that, yes, we were. The line before me wove up a loading ramp and in through a massive steel door guarded by a nurse. The exterior of the building was covered in graffiti.

NYC had apparently rented out an abandoned plant to do these tests … far from the places where humans normally gather.

Covid-19 antibody testWhen I got up to the entrance of the building the nurse took my temperature and gave me a set of blue surgical gloves. I showed her my appointment confirmation on my phone. She nodded her head and pointed inside.

I walked into the factory and found myself in a large, spacious room with women decked out in tyvek suits sitting at grade school desks arranged in a neat grid spaced six feet apart. I was handed a clipboard and told to go to the third desk on the right.

I peered through the plastic face shield at an older Chinese women within. Her mannerisms told me that she grew up in China or Taiwan. She did not speak a word. She merely pointed at the places on the forms that I was to fill out and then pointed back at her form for me to validate what she’d copied down.

Although she did playfully mock how I hold a pen. She held her pen like I do and began writing. But just when my face lit up with surprise — I’d never met anyone who holds a pen like I do — she burst out laughing. She was picking on me.

After that she pointed towards a defacto hallway that was constructed out of temporary partitioning boards at the far end of the room. I walked through the impromptu tunnel and into massive arena sized room like an athlete entering a playing field. The floor was bare cement. The walls were brick. The ceiling was at least three or four stories up. Exposed ventilation pipes criss-crossed the room. Giant industrial fans were churning within them.

Covid-19 antibody test New York CityA nurse came up from behind me and told her colleague that she had me. She sat me down and go to it. She drew my blood and told me that my results would be ready in 48 hours.

The city wants to know how many people have been infected as that’s the only way to truly understand how dangerous the virus really is. Up until now we’ve only been hearing about the case fatality rate (CFR) for Covid-19. This is very different than infection fatality rate (IFR), otherwise known as the death rate. The former is the percentage of people who died among clinically confirmed cases, the later is an estimate of the percentage of people who died out of the total number of people who were infected.

As most people — at least 90% — who have had Covid-19 were not officially documented as having it, the CFR is severely out of whack with the death rate, which generally only documents the worst cases. Most people who get Covid-19 never even know they have it and many others just have minor symptoms. Therefore, mass antibody testing is needed to get a proper picture of the actual threat the virus poses.

Not to sound callous, but 325,000 worldwide deaths with a 90+ percent comorbidity over a seven month period really isn’t that much if we make like-for-like comparisons with the toll from other medical ailments over this same period of time. Lots of things kill lots of people everyday. What did Henry David Thoreau say? “As long as a man is alive there is a chance that he may die.”

I believe we’ve jumped the gun on Virus-X.

We’ll soon find out if I’m right when the results of the antibody survey comes out.

There have been similar tests — NYC did an smaller one which lead to estimates that 25% of the city has already been infected. Stanford University did one that found that it has a death rate of 0.1 – 0.2 percent, or roughly in the ballpark of what we attribute to “the flu.”

There are political pressures coming from all sides in regards to these results. If they turn out to be similar to what Stanford found then it’s going to be real difficult to keep us in quarantine and to prevent businesses from re-opening — many of which have already gone rogue in some still locked down states. Fear is a powerful tool for governments to corral populations to go where they want them to go. Without fear all they have left is brute force.

Filed under: Epidemics, New York City

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3593 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Support Wade Shepard’s writing on this blog:

Wade Shepard is currently in: Astoria, New York

12 comments… add one

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  • Sarah BB May 19, 2020, 9:09 pm

    What a palaver! Are you kind of hoping you’ve had it in case they bring health passports in?

    I have access to an antibody test I can self administer but not sure if it’s worth me taking yet or keeping hold of it for later when I’m potentially more exposed again. There are only 2 cases of COVID19 left in Antigua.

    I would put money on me being asymptomatic in any case, I don’t usually get ill and have a pretty solid immune system. But the thought of being told I have antibodies and can prove to the world I’m less of a threat when travelling that would be pretty cool. Hmm 🤔

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    • Wade Shepard May 20, 2020, 8:18 am

      Definitely hope it’s positive. In the sci-fi books people with antibodies get special bracelets. How cool would that make me?

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      • Sarah BB May 20, 2020, 8:28 am

        Fucking cool! I am totally down with this dystopian future – where those that have had it can travel freely and cram into bars again while the rest of the world stays 2 metres apart.

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  • MRP May 20, 2020, 6:59 am

    Wade, an impressive and stylish kit to ward off Covid-19.

    However, I’m baffled how you got across NYC without the cops grabbing you on suspicions of terrorism 🤪

    I suppose that threat’s not working for governments now…

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  • Rob May 20, 2020, 11:24 am

    At this point in time the pandemic in 1968 was worse that this one, I was in high school in ’68 and I’d never heard of it. The CDC knows about it.. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1968-pandemic.html
    I’d guess the MSM knows about it too but they’d rather talk about the one in 1918, more deaths, good photos of people in masks and no one to argue with about how bad it was. Not so for the one in ’68 or the worse one 11 years before that (1957 pandemic).

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  • Trevor Warman May 20, 2020, 2:17 pm

    So the 48 hrs is up. Whats the story?

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  • Jack May 20, 2020, 11:09 pm

    LOL You are more covered than I am when I go out and you are the one saying it’s not a big deal.

    On a more serious note, how likely do you think you’ve actually been exposed to it? Any symptoms at all with you or anyone else in your family?

    I’m thinking i’m about 60 to 70% sure I’ve had, but no antibody tests here at all. I’m in a state that doesn’t want reported cases or deaths.

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    • Wade Shepard May 21, 2020, 11:28 am

      Haha, dude, they make me get done up like that.

      I don’t wear the mask in the streets. Sometimes people scurry to the other side of the road when they see me coming.

      I had an illness that I’d describe as “weird” after being kicked out of Hong Kong in December. My wife has thought she had it the entire time …

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      • Jack May 21, 2020, 11:15 pm

        Weird seems to be a common refrain. I’m beginning to think it is sentient. 😉

        So what are your results?

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        • Wade Shepard May 22, 2020, 9:44 am

          Yes, I keep hearing that word used too and have used it myself even before it became a pandemic. There is something … weird going on.

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  • Andy May 21, 2020, 11:53 am

    Take that stupid mask off! LOL

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    • Wade Shepard May 21, 2020, 3:24 pm

      Wish I could haha! If I tried people probably would have gone into hysterics. Like I pulled out a gun or something.

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