Study: Virus Death Toll in NYC Worse Than Official Tally

Pedestrians walk through the nearly empty Oculus during the coronavirus pandemic Saturday, May 9, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

NEW YORK (AP) — 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 U.S. 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.

“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.

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.

Here are other coronavirus-related developments in New York:

Several regions of upstate New York that have shown progress in taming the coronavirus outbreak are ready to restart some economic activity by the end of the week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

Three upstate regions have met all criteria for opening some businesses Friday: the Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley and the Finger Lakes. Other upstate regions are making progress and could follow soon after.

The loosening of shut-down rules will be gradual. Construction and manufacturing, agriculture, forestry and fishing can resume, as well as retail stores, but only with curb-side pickup. Customers won’t be able to enter shops.

Additionally, landscaping and gardening businesses and drive-in theaters can open statewide, the governor said. Cuomo said the state also is relaxing restrictions on low-risk outdoor activities such as tennis.

The reopening regions still need to work out logistics, such as creating regional “control rooms” to monitor the effects of the reopening.

“This is the next big step in this historic journey,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said at his daily briefing.

The virus killed 161 people in New York on Sunday, he said, its lowest total since close to the start of the crisis in mid-March.

Cuomo shut down most workplaces and barred people from gathering in groups of any size starting March 22 as New York emerged as a global pandemic hot spot.

Cuomo last week said parts of the state could phase in reopening if they met seven conditions related to hospitalization trends and capacity to test and trace people who might have the virus.