Herd immunity might exist in some NYC neighborhoods

A family in Bedstuy during the NYC get tested day of action on July 8th.
A family in Bedstuy during the NYC get tested day of action on July 8th.
Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
A family in Bedstuy during the NYC get tested day of action on July 8th.

Herd immunity might exist in some NYC neighborhoods

Hardest-hit areas could have some protection in a future COVID-19 wave.
July 9, 2020

There is growing evidence that some New York City neighborhoods hit hardest by the pandemic might have a unique advantage moving forward. “Some communities might have herd immunity,” Daniel Frogel, who plays a key role in the city testing program through his role at CityMD, told The New York Times. 

Antibody test results and reports from local health care clinics suggest that somewhere around 70% of the people in places such as Jackson Heights in Queens and Borough Park in Brooklyn have already had the coronavirus. This could mean they have inadvertently achieved a level of communal protection that has eluded countries that deliberately tried to get it – with deadly consequences.

Public health experts say that much more evidence is needed to prove that infections in hard-hit areas of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx actually exceeded the 70% mark. “Unless they’re getting a random sampling of the community, statistically it’s worth zero,” one epidemiologist told the Jewish Telegraph Agency. 

While scientists are also unsure whether COVID-19 herd immunity is even possible, the ongoing decline in cases in some city neighborhoods hints that asymptomatic people and those who eventually recover from COVID-19 cannot get the disease later on.

Brooklyn’s Hasidic neighborhoods are a developing case in point. The coronavirus hit these communities in early March before many social distancing restrictions were put in place. Hundreds of deaths later, there is a widespread perception that herd immunity has been achieved, according to the Jewish Telegraph Agency. “Otherwise, how do you explain zero cases after months of packed shuls, open schools, huge weddings?” one Brooklyn man asked the publication.

Such assumptions could turn out to be true, but some in the Orthodox community say a new normal without social distancing was hardly worth so much death and debilitating illness. “To benefit from the bad is something that makes me sad,” one Brooklyn man who lost family members to COVID-19, told JTA. “But I can’t have complaints that people live in the reality that exists.”

Zach Williams
is a staff reporter at City & State.
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