Finding out how bad this really is.
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.
The 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.
At 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.
When 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.
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.