Rapid Emergence of SARS-CoV-2 in the Greater New York Metropolitan Area: Geolocation, Demographics, Positivity Rates, and Hospitalization for 46 793 Persons Tested by Northwell Health

Clin Infect Dis. 2020 Dec 15;71(12):3204-3213. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciaa922.


Background: In March 2020, the greater New York metropolitan area became an epicenter for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection. The initial evolution of case incidence has not been well characterized.

Methods: Northwell Health Laboratories tested 46 793 persons for SARS-CoV-2 from 4 March through 10 April. The primary outcome measure was a positive reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction test for SARS-CoV-2. The secondary outcomes included patient age, sex, and race, if stated; dates the specimen was obtained and the test result; clinical practice site sources; geolocation of patient residence; and hospitalization.

Results: From 8 March through 10 April, a total of 26 735 of 46 793 persons (57.1%) tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Males of each race were disproportionally more affected than females above age 25, with a progressive male predominance as age increased. Of the positive persons, 7292 were hospitalized directly upon presentation; an additional 882 persons tested positive in an ambulatory setting before subsequent hospitalization, a median of 4.8 days later. Total hospitalization rate was thus 8174 persons (30.6% of positive persons). There was a broad range (>10-fold) in the cumulative number of positive cases across individual zip codes following documented first caseincidence. Test positivity was greater for persons living in zip codes with lower annual household income.

Conclusions: Our data reveal that SARS-CoV-2 incidence emerged rapidly and almost simultaneously across a broad demographic population in the region. These findings support the premise that SARS-CoV-2 infection was widely distributed prior to virus testing availability.

Keywords: coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); hospitalization; race; severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2); socioeconomic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • New York
  • SARS-CoV-2*