A Lot of New Yorkers Are Dying at Home. That's a Big Deal

Some say NYC is likely undercounting the number of virus deaths
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 8, 2020 4:14 AM CDT
Updated Apr 8, 2020 5:51 AM CDT
A Lot of New Yorkers Are Dying at Home. That's a Big Deal
In this Thursday, April 2, 2020, image made from video, a person is taken into an ambulance in the Brooklyn borough of New York.   (AP Photo/Emily Leshner)

New York City's coronavirus death toll exceeded 4,000 on Tuesday—eclipsing the number killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11 by more than 1,000—but that number could be hugely undercounting the true number of deaths related to COVID-19. That's because, as Gothamist puts it, a "staggering" number of people in the city are dying at home—an average of 200 a day compared to 20 to 25 before the pandemic—and the medical examiner's office is not testing those bodies for the virus. If there are signs suggesting the death was COVID-related, the ME's office will report the case as a "probable" COVID death to the health department, but unless the case is confirmed, the health department does not include the death in its official numbers. And the people being tested are mostly those who end up in the hospital.

In a similar story, Salon notes that death tolls are indeed "hospital-centric," and it's often the poorest people—who have long been off the radar of public health, and thus are also more likely to have chronic underlying conditions—who are dying at home. EMS workers say they typically get one or two cardiac arrest calls per shift, but in recent days, they're getting as many as 13—and many of those calls result in the patient dying at home. Hot Air similarly notes that while hospitals are seeing fewer heart attack patients amid the pandemic, EMS workers are seeing more cardiac arrest calls. "Our members have been saying they just are not seeing this flattening of the curve if you look at call volume and the crazy increase in cardiac deaths," says an EMS union leader. "This pandemic is not just playing out in the hospitals but in the community and in people's homes." (More coronavirus stories.)

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