New York City’s covid-19 death toll is likely higher than reported, due to the fact that the medical examiner doesn’t test the bodies of people who’ve died at home from the virus. A report from WNYC has found that, while the daily rate of deaths at home has increased nearly tenfold since the outbreak, only those who have previously tested positive for covid-19 are included in the Department of Health’s official count. The likelihood of a previous positive test for a person who died at home is low, since, as WNYC notes, New York has largely restricted tests to those who’ve required hospitalization.
“Probable” at-home deaths resulting from covid-19 are marked as such, but the number of “probable” covid-19 deaths have also not been reported to the public.
Over the past week, the Department of Public Health reported an approximate average of 217 covid-19-related deaths per day in New York City, yet the excess rate of at-home deaths nearly matches that figure. Mark Levine, the Chair of Council Committee on Health, tweeted on Sunday that the average number of daily at-home deaths in the city has risen from 20-25 to 200-215 “every day.” The number of deaths could be 40 percent higher than the city’s official estimate.
This morning, Governor Cuomo reported an all-time high of 731 deaths across the state since the same time yesterday. He also said that hospital admissions are down, although doctors told the New York Times that admissions standards have also been raised in light of recently strained resources.
Gizmodo has asked the city’s Department of Health and the Office of the Medical Examiner why tests are not conducted but did not receive an immediate response. The city last month, citing test shortages, directed medical workers not to test people unless they were ill enough to need hospitalization. Health officials have concluded that a nationwide shortage of tests has led to underestimates of covid-19 cases throughout the United States.
Coroners around the country told CNN that they’re desperately seeking tests in order to compensate for probable undercounts in numerous states.
Update 4/7: A representative from New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene told Gizmodo that they are currently working with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to estimate unconfirmed covid-19 fatalities that occurred at home. They expect to add that number, going back to the beginning of the outbreak, to the city’s covid-19 data page soon.