New York City has added more than 3,700 deaths to the toll of people who’ve perished from COVID-19, shooting the official tally up to a staggering 10,367 New York City residents.
The new total represents a 57 percent increase over the previous count by including “probable” COVID-19 deaths in addition to cases confirmed by a laboratory test.
It comes a week after Gothamist/WNYC reported that the city was not counting people who exhibited symptoms but died at home or elsewhere without a laboratory test. The official state figures released by Gov. Cuomo still do not include probable cases, a state Health Department spokesman confirmed.
The city numbers released Tuesday capture the fullest picture yet of the devastating impact the virus has had on the city, showing how New York City residents died in hospital emergency rooms, in nursing homes, and in their own homes before they could be tested or get care for the virus.
“It’s important to have maximal transparency with New Yorkers,” Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the city Health Commissioner, told WNYC/Gothamist following the publication of the new data. “To just be able to paint a picture of how widely affected we are as a city, and really draw attention to the need for ongoing adherence to sheltering in place…can help save lives.”
In addition to the confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, the city saw an increase of 3,017 deaths last month over the same month last year that the city can’t yet attribute to COVID-19.
A NYC Health Department official said some of those cases could be COVID-19 cases in which victims didn’t present the typical symptoms, or non-COVID deaths of victims who couldn’t get care because of the crush of COVID cases in the health-care system, as public health officials had warned would happen.
The new data follows a report from WNYC and Gothamist that showed how the city’s medical examiner was identifying hundreds of deaths as “probable” COVID-19 deaths, but the city’s Health Department wasn’t reporting that number because it wasn’t backed up by a laboratory test.
Data from the city’s fire department, meanwhile, showed a skyrocketing number of New York City residents who were dying at home before they could access hospital care.
Dr. Barbot said she had planned to release information on probable deaths, but wanted to make sure it was accurate before doing so.
“This is a rapidly evolving situation,” she said, adding that federal guidance on how to report COVID deaths was only finalized in early April. “This is something we’ve all been struggling with.”
The NYC Health Department statistics released on Tuesday show that 2,258 New Yorkers died in hospital emergency rooms before being tested, on top of the 5,512 people who died in hospitals who were confirmed to have COVID-19.
Another 673 probable cases died in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, on top of the 292 confirmed cases. And 825 New Yorkers died in their homes before they could be tested.
The previously uncounted deaths included similar numbers of black, Hispanic, and white New Yorkers. A greater proportion of uncounted deaths occurred in Brooklyn, according to the statistics, with 656 people dying there who were previously uncounted, followed by Queens, where 527 were presumed to have the virus who died without being tested.
“It’s important to give families and communities, and the city as a whole, a sense of the magnitude of what we are going through,” Dr. Barbot said. “I think that will help be a part of the healing process so we can all collectively grieve and mourn for those who have passed.”