Read the COMPLETE article from the New York Times below


N.Y.C. Death Toll Soars Past 10,000 in Revised Virus Count

By J. David Goodman and William K. Rashbaum

The city has added more than 3,700 additional people who were presumed to have died of the coronavirus but had never tested positive.

A triage tent at Elmhurst Hospital Medical Center in Queens, which has been inundated with patients during the coronavirus outbreak. 

New York City, already a world epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, sharply increased its death toll by more than 3,700 victims on Tuesday, after officials said they were now including people who had never tested positive for the virus but were presumed to have died of it.

The new figures, released by the city’s Health Department, drove up the number of people killed in New York City to more than 10,000, and appeared to increase the overall United States death count by 17 percent to more than 26,000.

The numbers brought into clearer focus the staggering toll the virus has already taken on the largest city in the United States, where deserted streets are haunted by the near-constant howl of ambulance sirens. Far more people have died in New York City, on a per-capita basis, than in Italy — the hardest-hit country in Europe.

The revised death toll renewed focus on shortcomings in testing that have hamstrung city and state officials since the beginning of the outbreak. A limited number of tests have been available, and until now, only deaths where a person had tested positive were counted among those killed by the virus in New York.

But for weeks, the Health Department also had been recording additional deaths tied to the virus, according to two people briefed on the matter. Those cases involved people who were presumed to have been infected because of their symptoms and medical history.

They were not included in the counts given publicly by Mayor Bill de Blasio because no tests had confirmed that the victims had the disease, Covid-19.

Mr. de Blasio decided, after another round of briefings over the weekend, to release the presumptive cases, the people said. Most of the added deaths took place in hospitals, according to the data. Others occurred in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities and in residences.

“In the heat of battle, our primary focus has been on saving lives,” said Freddi Goldstein, the mayor’s press secretary. “As soon as the issue was raised, the mayor immediately moved to release the data.”

Credit…Sarah Blesener for The New York Times

New York City appeared to be among a handful of places in the country that are beginning to report cases where infection is presumed but not confirmed. Connecticut, Ohio, Maryland and Delaware all began reporting probable cases this week, Oxiris Barbot, the New York City health commissioner, said in an interview.

Officials in California and in Seattle — locations of early cases in the American outbreak — said they included deaths as connected to Covid-19 only when the disease was confirmed by testing.

The new numbers in New York cover the weeks between March 11 to April 13, beginning at a period when the virus had already been spreading throughout the city and its surrounding suburbs. Mr. de Blasio and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo shut down large swaths of the city and state by the third week of March.

New York City has been reporting the additional cases to the federal National Center for Health Statistics for more than a week, health officials said. But Dr. Barbot said that the city would continue reporting only confirmed cases to the Centers for Disease Control, because that is what was requested. “We are more than happy to report on probables,” she said.

The C.D.C., in its guidance to local governments, has recommended that cases of “assumed” coronavirus infection be recorded on death certificates since before New York City recorded its first death on March 14.

A spokeswoman for the C.D.C. said that total for coronavirus deaths in New York City as of Monday was 6,182 — the same number publicly reported by the city Health Department on Monday, before the new numbers were included. On Tuesday, the city’s count went up to 6,589.

The city and the state have at times differed in their counts of the dead in New York City. As of Monday, the state said that 7,349 had died of the virus in the city. City officials have complained that they are at the whim of the state, which has been slow to share the data it receives from hospitals and nursing homes. The state Health Department explained on its website that the discrepancy is caused by the city and state using “different data systems.”

Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

The sheer volume of additional deaths in the city has been felt daily. Emergency responders have seen the number of people dying at home jump significantly. Overwhelmed morgues have filled refrigerated trucks with bodies outside of hospitals.

And on Hart Island, the city’s old potter’s field, the number of unclaimed dead has grown markedly — as many people are buried there in a day now as would have been buried in a week before the pandemic arrived.

While the city has been uniquely overwhelmed by cases and deaths, the newly released data suggested that the toll elsewhere in the nation and the world may be much higher than reported.

Public health officials say that counting the dead from a pandemic disease like Covid-19 presents difficulties because many of those who die are older or suffering from other serious health conditions. And the full effects of the outbreak on mortality in New York City, and around the country, could take many more months to study and understand.

Epidemiologists who study such events said a complete account would include an analysis of the number of so-called excess deaths caused by the coronavirus, comparing the number of New Yorkers who died of all causes during the outbreak with the number of people who die during the same time period in an average year.

Those deaths, not caused by the disease but by other factors, can be connected to the outbreak, epidemiologists said, in part because of the way it overwhelmed the normal health care system.

City health officials have been gathering data on “excess deaths” as well, according to several people with knowledge of the discussions at the department. It was not clear when those figures would be released.

Read more about the toll of the coronavirus

J. David Goodman covers lobbying, fund-raising and the influence of money in politics. A former reporter in City Hall and at police headquarters in New York, he has written about government, politics and criminal justice for The Times since 2012. @jdavidgoodman

William K. Rashbaum is a senior writer on the Metro desk, where he covers political and municipal corruption, courts, terrorism and broader law enforcement topics. He was a part of the team awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news. @WRashbaumFacebook

  • Updated April 11, 2020
    • When will this end?

      This is a difficult question, because a lot depends on how well the virus is contained. A better question might be: “How will we know when to reopen the country?” In an American Enterprise Institute report, Scott Gottlieb, Caitlin Rivers, Mark B. McClellan, Lauren Silvis and Crystal Watson staked out four goal posts for recovery: Hospitals in the state must be able to safely treat all patients requiring hospitalization, without resorting to crisis standards of care; the state needs to be able to at least test everyone who has symptoms; the state is able to conduct monitoring of confirmed cases and contacts; and there must be a sustained reduction in cases for at least 14 days.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

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      It seems to spread very easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals and other confined spaces. The pathogen can be carried on tiny respiratory droplets that fall as they are coughed or sneezed out. It may also be transmitted when we touch a contaminated surface and then touch our face.

    • Is there a vaccine yet?

      No. Clinical trials are underway in the United States, China and Europe. But American officials and pharmaceutical executives have said that a vaccine remains at least 12 to 18 months away.

    • What makes this outbreak so different?

      Unlike the flu, there is no known treatment or vaccine, and little is known about this particular virus so far. It seems to be more lethal than the flu, but the numbers are still uncertain. And it hits the elderly and those with underlying conditions — not just those with respiratory diseases — particularly hard.

    • What if somebody in my family gets sick?

      If the family member doesn’t need hospitalization and can be cared for at home, you should help him or her with basic needs and monitor the symptoms, while also keeping as much distance as possible, according to guidelines issued by the C.D.C. If there’s space, the sick family member should stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom. If masks are available, both the sick person and the caregiver should wear them when the caregiver enters the room. Make sure not to share any dishes or other household items and to regularly clean surfaces like counters, doorknobs, toilets and tables. Don’t forget to wash your hands frequently.

    • Should I stock up on groceries?

      Plan two weeks of meals if possible. But people should not hoard food or supplies. Despite the empty shelves, the supply chain remains strong. And remember to wipe the handle of the grocery cart with a disinfecting wipe and wash your hands as soon as you get home.

    • Should I pull my money from the markets?

      That’s not a good idea. Even if you’re retired, having a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds so that your money keeps up with inflation, or even grows, makes sense. But retirees may want to think about having enough cash set aside for a year’s worth of living expenses and big payments needed over the next five years.

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