New York Institute of Technology
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. This phrase can be modified to say that a threat to public health anywhere is a threat to public health everywhere.

Diseases such as the MERS, SARS , Ebola, and now COVID-19 clearly demonstrate this principle. Roughly six weeks ago there were no reported cases in New York City or New York State. The statistics and numbers changed so quickly it was impossible to report them in real time. At present, as of April 13, we have recorded more than 116,000 deaths worldwide, with 23,078 deaths in the United States, 9,385 in New York State, 7,349 in New York City, 1,364 deaths on Long Island, 115 deaths in Arkansas, and 717 deaths in Canada, not to mention the nearly 1.9 million cases diagnosed worldwide. It is very likely that if you live in the New York area, you know of someone who may have been infected or perhaps someone who has died. And all of us have been impacted by this pandemic in innumerable, unforeseen, and mostly unfortunate ways.

As bad as this reality is, it is important to understand that our current situation could have been substantially worse if it were not for the drastic and important measures taken to increase physical distancing. As a community, we should all remain vigilant in preventing this disease from being transmitted. Our actions today determine the morbidity and mortality rates three to four weeks from now.

Everyone wonders when all this will end and when the world will return to a state of normalcy. A vaccine is the ultimate solution. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, optimistically this will be over a year and a half from now. However, things are more likely to improve in the near future with the widespread availability of COVID-19 testing. Thus, it is important that we all understand how these tests work and their importance in ending this pandemic.

There are essentially two broad categories of tests:
  • Diagnostic testing is also referred to as genomic tests, because they look for the genes found in the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. If these genes are found in a specimen from a patient, that individual is considered positive, which means he or she has been infected and can potentially transmit the disease. This is why people found to be positive are generally isolated from others. Early in the pandemic, the availability of these tests was limited, and they targeted those who were hospitalized. Genomic tests are now more readily accessible at state-supported "drive- thru" locations, outpatient sites, and hospitals. Efforts are underway to make a rapid "point of care" test more readily available, allowing for instant results and eliminating the long 3- to 10-day waiting period for results.
  • Serological or antibody testing looks for "antibodies" to the coronavirus. Antibodies are proteins made by an infected individual to help fight off the disease. This test is not primarily used for diagnosis like genomic tests, but allows health care providers to know 1) what stage a person is at in mounting a defensive response to the virus, and 2) who may be immune to the virus. These tests are crucial from a public health perspective because they allow us to know who remains susceptible to the virus and who may be immune. It has major implications for the workforce, because those who are found to be immune can return back to work with no restrictions. This, of course, assumes that antibodies are found to be protective. Unfortunately, these tests are still not readily available for common use.
When all of these tests are in abundance, health care providers will be able to rapidly diagnose, isolate, treat, contact trace, and determine who can return to the general population without concerns of being infected. When we get to this point, this will go a long way in our journey back to normalcy!

Our Resources for You:

In addition to your local resources, the physicians and staff at the Academic Health Centers are available to answer your questions. You can also schedule appointments to meet with our medical providers via "TeleHealth" (virtual medical appointments). Call us at 516.686.1300.

It is also understandable that members of our New York Tech community may have concerns about a new and unfamiliar illness. If you are feeling anxious or uneasy, please reach out to Counseling and Wellness Services at our campuses in Long Island (516.686.7683) or New York City (212.261.1773) to talk or make a virtual appointment.

Be safe, be well…and be distant, but stay connected to each other, to loved ones, and to information that will keep you healthy.


Brian L. Harper M.D., M.P.H.
Chief Medical Officer, NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine
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