NEW YORK — On Wednesday, the region around Albany became the seventh of New York's 10 regions to begin reopening.
The three regions that remain officially on pause are all in the New York City metro area. However, new research, unveiled on Wednesday, may offer guidance on how to get New York City and its suburbs more quickly on a course toward reopening.
Specifically, 8,000 residents in lower income communities of color did antibody testing through a program set up by church groups. The results were surprising.
"The Bronx had highest percentage — 34%" tested positive, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, at his daily briefing in Albany.
"But the spread is continuing in those communities," the governor said, "and that's where the new cases are coming from."
The rates of positive tests in lower income communities of color were all higher than the citywide average of 19.9 percent. In some specific neighborhoods, the rate was more than double the citywide average.
"Morrisania, The Bronx, 43% of the people tested positive," Gov. Cuomo said.
Some residents of Morrisania expressed some skepticism about the numbers.
"I am surprised actually," said David Felder, a Morrisania resident, "because when it first started, you didn't see nobody over here. It was really empty. So I wouldn't think it would be that high."
Another resident, a woman who did not want to giver her name, agreed. "I don't see [how that could be the case] over here, because we just now started coming outside," she told PIX11 News. "Everybody has masks on, gloves on."
There were similarly high numbers in all other lower income communities of color. Brownsville, Brooklyn, for example, had 41% of people testing positive for antibodies.
The governor said that it shows why the state needs to redouble its efforts in communities with the highest rates of exposure in order to slow the overall infection rate, and get the New York City region reopened sooner rather than later.
The antibody research survey was carried out by Northwell Health, in conjunction with church groups.
"Northwell Health is going to double the number of churches they're working in — 44 total churches," the governor said.
"We're going to partner with SOMOS Community Care," he continued. "They're going to open up an additional 28 testing sites in these zip codes that fit this profile."
He said that the state will also open 20 new testing sites in the hardest hit communities, and would increase the number of testing sites in NYCHA housing from eight to 40.