As many as 1 million people in New York City may have been exposed to the coronavirus, the city’s health commissioner said Thursday.
More than 142,000 people in the city have tested positive for the virus, “but that really is, I think, the tip of the iceberg,” Dr. Oxiris Barbot said.
She noted the city is still telling people who suspect they have the virus but aren’t seriously ill that they don’t need to seek a test, so the true number of sick people is unknown.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if, at this point in time, we have probably close to 1 million New Yorkers who have been exposed to COVID-19,” she said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, around 15,000 New Yorkers had died who had either been confirmed or suspected to have the virus.
Early on in the pandemic, health officials estimated that as many as half of all people in the city would get the virus. Mayor Bill de Blasio said that’s still plausible, though the lack of comprehensive, widespread testing makes it difficult to say for sure.
“We are still dealing with the great unknown in the absence of testing. We don’t even 100 percent know when the first cases emerged in this city, because we didn’t have testing in February. We know it was February, but we don’t know how many people got it back then.”
De Blasio said that “in a perfect world,” hundreds of thousands of people a day would be tested for the coronavirus in the city.
He said the city needs help from the federal government to reach that level of testing, but is building testing capacity and should reach 20,000 to 30,000 tests a day by next month.