Epidemiologists, city officials and medical personnel in New York say official numbers are likely to be far below the actual death toll from the coronavirus. Here's why.
The official statistics paint a partial picture and may understate the death toll. Here’s why.
are not performing coronavirus tests on those they pronounce dead. Recent Fire Department policy says that death determinations on emergency calls should be made on scene rather than having paramedics take patients to nearby hospitals, where, in theory, health care workers could conduct post-mortem testing.
It is almost impossible to say how many of those 1,125 patients who died at home or in street in the first five days of April had coronavirus — some may have been previously tested before their death and either were never admitted to a hospital or had been sent home.
But the discrepancy between the Fire Department numbers from this year, at the height of the epidemic, compared with those of last year suggests that many of those who died probably were infected.“The driver of this huge uptick in deaths at home is Covid-19. And some people are dying directly of it, and some people are dying indirectly of it, but it is the tragic ‘X’ factor here,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday.
Some of the deaths of people at home or in the street were unrelated to the virus.We also don’t really know how each of the city’s dozens of hospitals and medical facilities are counting their dead. For example, if a patient who is presumed to have coronavirus is admitted to the hospital, but dies there before they can be tested, it is unclear how they might factor into the formal death tally.
Why don’t we have an accurate number?There aren’t really any mechanisms in place for having an immediate, efficient method to calculate the death toll during a pandemic. Normal procedures are usually abandoned quickly in such a crisis.For example, when someone died at home six months ago, a fairly straightforward process began: Paramedics, if they were called, would pronounce the person dead on scene or transport them to the hospital, where doctors would pronounce them dead, certify the death and issue a cause.
The body would be taken to a funeral home or to a morgue — if an autopsy was merited. The death would be certified by an attending doctor or by the city medical examiner’s office.Or, if someone died at a hospital, a doctor would certify the death and the body would be taken by a mortuary service or to the morgue. Family doctors, too, could certify the death.
During the coronavirus pandemic, these procedures are inconsistent at best. Doctors are struggling to certify deaths quickly enough. The medical examiner’s office, which would normally only be involved if a death was suspicious or required further study, is now in charge of picking up and storing bodies until the pandemic abates.
Paramedics are not transporting unresponsive patients to hospitals unless they immediately find a pulse.Bodies are piling up in hospital morgues and freezer truckslined with makeshift shelves because the institutions are overloaded with the dead and dying. Few, if any, of these facilities are doing post-mortem testing.
“We are doing everything we can to expand the city’s morgue capacity, and help people collect the bodies of their loved ones in a timely manner,” said Aja Worthy-Davis, a spokeswoman for the city’s medical examiner’s office.Both that office and the Department of Health, she said, “are working together to better understand how to appropriately include non-healthcare facility, natural-cause deaths into the citywide fatality count.”
About 120 morgue workers and soldiers from the U.S. Army, the National Guard and the Air National Guard are working in shifts around the clock, driving rented vans around the city to pick up the bodies of as many as 280 people a day who have died at home and have probably not been part of the official death count.
Fifteen four-person teams overseen by Office of the Chief Medical Examiner perform the grim work during each 12-hour shift, a task normally handled by 14 workers, according to Ms. Worthy-Davis.Will we ever really know how many people died?Counting the dead after most disasters — a plane crash, a hurricane, a gas explosion, a terror attack or a mass shooting, for example — is not complex.
A virus raises a whole host of more complicated issues, according to Michael A.L. Balboni, who about a decade ago served as the head of the state’s public safety office, and now heads an association of for-profit nursing homes in the New York City area and a crisis management consulting company.
“A virus presents a unique set of circumstances for a cause of death, especially if the target is the elderly, because of the presence of comorbidities,” he said — multiple conditions. For example, a person with Covid-19 may end up dying of a heart attack.
“As the number of decedents increase,” Mr. Balboni said, “so does the inaccuracy of determining a cause of death.”Dr. Barbot said the city is intent on doing everything possible to get an accurate death count.“I think that as a city, it is part of the healing process to be able to grieve and mourn for all of those that have passed because of Covid-19,” she said.
But it’s unclear how the city the medical examiner’s office will meet that goal.It is almost impossible tograsp the full scale of a highly contagious pandemiclike Covid-19 in real time, said Dr. Howard Markel, a professor of medical history at the University of Michigan who has researched past epidemiological events in New York City.
“You have an idea of what numbers are, but you don’t have an exact source,” he said. It takes extensive, retroactive research, testing and academic study to even estimate the toll of a biological crisis like Covid-19, he said.But, Dr. Markel said, debates over official death counts are arguably unimportant in the midst of the city’s crisis.
“Even if we’re underestimating deaths and cases, particularly in the New York situation, there are enough of both to tell us this is very serious,” he said. “It’s already all hands on deck, and I think that’s appropriate.”Alan Feuer contributed reporting.
Frequently Asked Questions and AdviceUpdated April 4, 2020Should I wear a mask? Read more: The New York Times »
China underreport Wuhan untested deaths- China is lying and covering up; US underreport New York deaths- US is transparent. Wuhan police sliences doctors but doctors can go to work-CCP is evil; US fired doctors telling truth- US has freedom of speech gobearsrommii やはりニューヨークは相当前から蔓延が始まっていたという事か 日本に この様な疫学者、医療関係者、隠蔽しない当局は現れるだろうか…
Very true, most likely to be so in every country. This cuts both ways. Many patients die of other causes who happen to test positive for Covid. But Covid is NOT the cause of death. So if Covid deaths are undercounted in some ways, they are certainly overcounted in other ways. 🤦♂️ King Trump's good job, well done Trump! I support you to be next president of USA
This is why people are not taking care to social distance and wear masks. Now you have irresponsibility posted a story for the under-educated not to read, but to run with the inferred storyline. 🤦🏽♀️ ´Yes, and how many deaths will it take 'til he knows That too many people have died?´ Bob Dylan words were also. written 4 people like The Donald.
🤔 Fed 28, President Trump called coronavirus the 'new hoax.' Feb 29, Surgeon General tweeted 'Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching Coronavirus...' Apr 3, CDC said use masks only after cases went up 3,148-fold. So when the West 'undercounts' there are plenty of rational grounds for it. China, being on a different planet, must have 'lied' and been evil and malicious. Pathetic!
There have now been 7 articles in the Times about how CoronavirusPandemic stats are inaccurate, for exactly the reasons I've been saying for a month (China lies, undercounted deaths, lack of testing). Yet, every day the paper publishes articles that cite official stats as truth. even more if u count the collateral deaths that result from the depressing misery of the situation : the suicides , the domestic violence homicides , the overdoses ..
But China though. Stop talk down the gov who is atcually reporting at least something. Thank you TheChiefLeader and stucknation for breaking this story orginally days earlier. You guys called it. Any more info regarding the vaping pneumonia? Just curious, it suddenly disappeared, I mean no more coverage on this anyone...
Oh, but China tho 🙄 Translation: We wanted the number of dead to be higher so as to have a greater impact on the November elections, so we will push this narrative until we think it sticks. The same logic can work for any country's reporting This is a shame. Americans deserve better than this. Globally 96,000 deaths have been reported Latest updates | cases per million population 👇 COVIDー19 coronavirus
How many people are misdiagnosed They are covering up numbers just like China. All they care about are just their stocks and votes. The case count is far below the actual case count, too. Right beneath our eyes. Because, tests.
Reuters Top News @Reuters New York Governor Cuomo gives an update on the state's coronavirus fight He sounds better than Trump by far Is this the option to publish comments on Cuomo speech? liliana_soham The more than 7 thousands deaths are due to his lack of protective plan to save lives!Poor New Yorkers were told to go about with their normal routines,spreading the virus like fire among themselves!We have been in quarantine for 3 weeks and have 68 deaths!
Scenes From Your PandemicWe'd like to see and share what life under the pandemic in New York (or outside New York ) looks like from your eyes What does your pandemic experience look like? What have you noticed? What do you want us — and your fellow readers — to have a chance to view? You can share your photographs by emailing them to us at scenesnymag.com
How California Has Avoided a Coronavirus Outbreak as Bad as New York’s…So FarExperts attribute California’s relatively low coronavirus numbers to the state taking some of the nation’s earliest and most aggressive social-distancing measures and its cities having less dense populations than New York ’s. CA is kicking ass because we take it seriously and our mayor acted in time. realDonaldTrump .. what aren’t you u responding to this Where are the PPE’s and test kits ? We’re still waiting ... California has a lot of older retirees and most of them have the good sense to social distance during normal flu season.
Why COVID-19 Hits Black America HardestBlack people are getting sick and dying from the coronavirus at staggering rates. It hits underprivileged communities were people are forced to be stacked on top of one another to 'live'. Being Black is just a byproduct of that in America.
Good Friday observed at home as Japan virus divide surfacesALBANY, New York (AP) — People around the world began observing Good Friday from the safety of their homes, as rare divisions surfaced in Japan over how to tackle the growing coronavirus outbreak... No Easter worshiping this year? Easter is here relief will come as after the severity of trials good tidings will rise
Cuomo announces highest single-day death toll from coronavirus in New York New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New York just had the highest single-day death toll from coronavirus so far in his daily briefing. 😢 So terrible...so many lives lost. 🙏 Such a helpless feeling. Should have started the hydrocloriquine sooner