New research from the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research provides a comprehensive analysis of the New York population that sought care from Northwell Health, New York State’s largest health system.
The study, published Wednesday in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, was made possible by the high degree of technical and data standardization of Northwell Health Laboratories, which analyzed 46,793 patients who were tested for the virus between March 4 and April 10, 2020. Of those tested, 26,735 or 57.1 % of patients revealed a positive diagnosis and roughly 30% of those who tested positive for COVID-19 (8,174 people) were hospitalized.
This study provides further evidence that COVID-19 infection was widespread across the greater New York metropolitan area at the time that diagnostic testing became available in early March, and provides detailed demographic and geographic information about persons who were tested during the first five weeks of the outbreak.
“To better understand how COVID-19 spreads, we need to know where people who got infected by the virus lived, when they got infected, and then learn as much about them as we can,” said James Crawford, M.D., Ph.D., professor at the Feinstein Institutes and senior author of the paper. “This information helps us better understand who is at risk of getting COVID-19 and can help inform other regions that are still on the upswing of viral spread. This study also will help us prepare for future surges of this or other viruses.”
The highest positive cases were noted in Queens County (68.5 percent of persons tested), Kings County (62.3 percent), and Bronx County (59.2 percent). The lowest positive rates were noted for Westchester County (46.4 percent) and Suffolk County (51.2 percent).
Crawford and his team found that males were more likely to be positive for COVID-19 than females, and test positivity rates increased progressively with age. For both males and females age 25 and under, the estimated regional case incidence by April 10 was well below 1 percent. For females age 25 and above, the estimated regional case incidence rose steadily from 1.7 percent to 2.6 percent through age 84 and was 4.7 percent for age 85 and above. For males age 25 and above, estimated regional case incidence rose from 1.6 percent at age 25 to 4.4 percent through age 84 and was 6.0 percent for age 85 and above.
Northwell’s service area includes some of the most diverse neighborhoods in the world. In regard to race, the Black population (both sexes) registered a positivity rate of 67.8 percent compared with the Asian population (62.3 percent) and White population (55.5 percent). Information was not available for test positivity rates in the Hispanic population. The highest test positivity rates were among Black males (72.1 percent) and Asian males (71.6 percent).
The majority of hospital admissions for COVID-19 (7,292 persons) were immediately upon presentation of a symptomatic patient to a hospital emergency room. However, a small number of persons who tested positive for COVID-19 as outpatients were subsequently admitted to the hospital (882 persons), a median of five days after their test had been performed.
“After treating more than 50,000 COVID-19 patients, 1,500 of whom were enrolled in clinical trials, our data is a powerful weapon against the virus,” said Kevin Tracey, MD, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institutes. “Dr. Crawford’s research is a key part of that effort and will help us understand the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic.”