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New York to Test for Antibodies; Governor Mandates Face Coverings

Salvation Army workers distribute free meals, April 15, 2020, in Staten Island, New York City. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he would invoke an executive order requiring citizens to wear masks in public when social distancing is not possible.

New York has developed its own antibody test that could help detect those immune to the coronavirus as the state looks to gradually end its shutdown, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

He made the announcement as he ordered all residents of the state — the epicenter of America's coronavirus outbreak — to cover their faces when in stores or using public transit.

Cuomo said 2,000 people would be tested a day as he works on a plan for a phased reopening of New York, without speeding up the spread of COVID-19 again, following its weeks-long shutdown.

"We're going to prioritize the antibody testing for first responders and essential workers," Cuomo told reporters. "It's a finger prick test, so it's not terribly invasive."


Officials are battling with how to get crippled economies up and running again without increasing the rate of infections as the world awaits a vaccine for the deadly virus.

Cuomo said he had a "blueprint" centered on testing residents for the virus, and then tracing and isolating those who have it to control the spread.

Health officials believe antibody tests that have just entered the market and look for whether a person has been previously infected are crucial in answering questions about immunity.

It isn't yet clear whether people who were previously infected will be immune and if so for how long, experts say.

Cuomo announced that another 752 New Yorkers had died from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours. He did not give an updated toll, but that number would take statewide deaths past 11,000.

Mask decree

The illness had claimed nearly 28,000 lives across the United States by late Wednesday afternoon, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Cuomo said he would sign a decree, to take effect in three days, requiring that all people in the state cover their mouths and noses when unable to maintain social distancing outside.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been recommending that U.S. citizens wear masks since April 3.