New York changes its COVID-19 indicator data as flu season approaches

Health Commissioner Dr. David Chokshi
Mayor’s office

The mayor’s office will now release data on antibody testing by ZIP code along with a breakdown of that number by neighborhood, poverty and sex, Mayor Bill de Blasio and city officials announced Tuesday. 

The data will be posted to the city’s website and comes as the city changes how it measures the virus’ spread throughout the five boroughs as the city prepares to keep lowering the infection rate as flu season approaches. 

“As we’ve looked at the situation we realize that there is a changing reality and some of the thresholds that we have set in the past need to be tightened up because we need to go farther,” de Blasio told reporters at his Aug. 18 press briefing. “It’s great that we fought the coronavirus this far back but we are not done.”

Now, the city will release daily data on hospital admission of people suffering from COVID-19-like illnesses along with the percentage of patients testing positive for the virus, according to Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi. This will help health care workers, in the months ahead, better distinguish flu patients from those infected with COVID-19.

The city will also change how it relays the percent of the results of positive COVID-19 tests to the public by adding two decimal points. 

Throughout the pandemic, the de Blasio administration has rounded to the nearest whole number when reporting positive cases. Now, instead of reporting that 2% of New Yorkers tested positive for the virus on any given day, officials will can be report that 1.80% or 1.90% tested positive. 

The city will also lower the threshold for positive test results from 15% to 5% as the disease transmission rate continues to remain low. On Tuesday, City Hall reported that 1.56% of New Yorkers tested positive for the virus. Officials will now also add a rolling seven-day average of new reported cases and remove numbers on intensive care unit capacity. 

“Having served at H+H Hospitals during the peak I remember how tested our ICU capacity was. It’s a marker of our progress to be able to change out this indicator,” said Chokshi.

Chokshi was abruptly appointed the city’s new health commissioner earlier this month after former Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot resigned.