Two Key Stories

Signs instruct citizens to remain 6 feet apart and observe social distancing measures in Mission Bay, San Francisco, California during an outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus, March 26, 2020. (Photo by Smith Collecti... Signs instruct citizens to remain 6 feet apart and observe social distancing measures in Mission Bay, San Francisco, California during an outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus, March 26, 2020. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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Two key issues we’re following are a) the question of the true death toll from COVID-19 and b) finding out more information about the federal government’s seizures of medical goods destined for states, localities and major hospital and medical systems. On the second story particularly, I want to renew my call for information. If you see local reports that we haven’t found yet, please send them in. If you know of incidents that have not been reported on yet, please contact us via email. We will zealously guard your confidentiality, as always do. Here is the main story I published over the weekend. Here’s a follow up from last night which adds in the AP report about how late the federal government began ordering masks.

As I discussed with one of my colleagues a few moments ago the most concerning part of this seizure story is that there’s no communication about what’s happening, what the strategy is, under what authority it’s being done. It is very notable that in every case I have found the intended recipients of the goods are given no explanation of what happened or which federal agency seized the goods. That is highly irregular. Even 19th century armies would issue warrants and what amounted to receipts when they confiscated civilian goods for their armies. It’s possible this is just confusion and disarray. But it’s a consistent pattern.

On the mortality front, I’ve now been able to confirm what I had strongly suspected: all the mortality numbers we are seeing include or until just recently included only those who had been tested positive for COVID-19. In other words, even many victims of the disease who clinicians assumed had COVID-19 are not included in these lists because they lacked a positive test. Some post-mortem testing is being done. But given the constraints on testing capacity, many clinicians and officials are understandably deciding that they should be reserved for the living.

This is not a cover-up. It’s a bureaucratic and technical reality our system is having difficulty catching up with. The CDC just issued guidance that issuers of death certificates need no longer require a positive test. “Ideally, testing for COVID–19 should be conducted, but it is acceptable to report COVID–19 on a death certificate without this confirmation if the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty.”

The need for a positive test has been the norm at least across Europe as well.

On a related front, the Chair of the New York City Council health committee tweeted this morning that the number of people dying at home in New York City has risen tenfold.

It is important to note that with people told to stay away from emergency rooms unless they are seriously ill and with the justified fear of contracting COVID-19 a significant number of these fatalities are likely from other causes or deaths which would ordinarily have taken place in hospitals. But there’s little doubt a significant number of victims of COVID-19. It’s likely that some number of people are dying because they did not seek medical care.

There’s lot of information we’re going to try to get through today on both stories. Stay tuned and stay healthy.

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