New York City virus death toll may be thousands higher than thought
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New York City virus death toll may be thousands higher than thought

Study finds about 24,000 more deaths than normal in March and April, but less than 19,000 were attributed to COVID-19, meaning many fatalities may be from unconfirmed cases

Workers wearing personal protective equipment bury bodies in a trench on Hart Island, Thursday, April 9, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York. On Thursday, New York City’s medical examiner confirmed that the city has shortened the amount of time it will hold on to remains to 14 days from 30 days before they will be transferred for temporary internment at a City Cemetery.  (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Workers wearing personal protective equipment bury bodies in a trench on Hart Island, Thursday, April 9, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York. On Thursday, New York City’s medical examiner confirmed that the city has shortened the amount of time it will hold on to remains to 14 days from 30 days before they will be transferred for temporary internment at a City Cemetery. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

NEW YORK — New York City’s death toll from the coronavirus may be thousands of fatalities worse than the tally kept by the city and state, according to an analysis released Monday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between March 11 and May 2, about 24,000 more people died in the city than researchers would ordinarily expect during that time period, the report said.

That’s about 5,300 more deaths than were blamed on the coronavirus in official tallies during those weeks.

Some of those excess fatalities could be COVID-19 deaths that went uncounted because a person died at home, or without medical providers realizing they were infected, the researchers at New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said.

It might also represent a ripple effect of the health crisis, they wrote. Public fear over contracting the virus and the enormous strain on hospitals might have led to delays in people seeking or receiving lifesaving care for unrelated conditions like heart disease or diabetes.

Medical workers in hazmat suits transport a body on a stretcher outside a funeral home in the New York City borough of Brooklyn on April 30, 2020. (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

“Tracking excess mortality is important to understanding the contribution to the death rate from both COVID-19 disease and the lack of availability of care for non-COVID conditions,” the report said.

A medical worker reacts as police officers and pedestrians cheer medical workers outside NYU Medical Center Thursday, April 16, 2020, in New York. (AP/Frank Franklin II)

The report underscored the challenges authorities face in quantifying the human toll of the crisis. Deaths caused by the coronavirus are believed to be undercounted worldwide, due in large part to limits in testing and the different ways countries count the dead.

Through Sunday, New York City had recorded nearly 14,800 deaths confirmed by a lab test and another nearly 5,200 probable deaths where no test was available but doctors are sure enough to list the virus on the death certificate.

In its analysis, the report released Monday said the 5,293 excess deaths were on top of both confirmed and probable fatalities.

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