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Coronavirus death toll in New York is worse than official tally, study says

New York’s death toll from COVID-19 may be higher by thousands than the official tally kept by the city and state, according to an analysis 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, said the report, which was released Monday.

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’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said.

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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 life-saving care for unrelated conditions such as 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.

As the U.S. coronavirus death toll hits 80,000, Trump grumbles over the pace of reopening the economy. New York to ease restrictions upstate.

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, owing in large part to limits in testing and the different ways countries count the dead.

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

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

New York state is poised to launch its training plan for the huge corps of disease detectives it plans to deploy to track people who might have been exposed to the virus.

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The effort, seen as a key to keeping the outbreak from flaring again, will likely involve hiring several thousand people who have no background in public health.

And since getting huge groups of people together in one place for a contact-tracing boot camp is impossible, the training will be done through a five- to six-hour online course that began Monday.

Last week, for the first time in New York’s history, the subway trains stopped running in a planned shutdown because of the coronavirus crisis.

“There’s all this discussion about using technology in some way. But fundamentally, this is a pretty human activity,” said Josh Sharfstein of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, which developed the course with Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable foundation of former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

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When someone becomes newly infected with the virus, tracers will be tasked with figuring out everyone who might have had contact with that person, reaching out to them and advising them how to quarantine.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made hiring at least 30 contact tracers per 100,000 residents a requirement for any part of the state to reopen.


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