The true death toll of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City is more than 24,000 people, according to a new Centers for Disease Control report.
The number reflects what the CDC believes could be the number of total “excess deaths” — deaths that would otherwise not have occurred but for the pandemic — that have taken place from March 11 until May 2.
The agency used city-level death data from the first COVID-19 fatality in New York City on March 11 to come up with the number. The study’s objective, the CDC said, was to estimate the total excess death number in New York City “in the setting of widespread community transmission.”
From March 11 to May 2, the CDC said, a total of 32,107 deaths were recorded in the five boroughs by New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Using death data from previous years, the CDC established a baseline, expected death rate of around 8,000 for the same time period.
Subtracting that from the number of total deaths recorded gave researchers an estimate of 24,172 deaths more than would have been expected.
Researchers used a similar method after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico to better understand both deaths from the storm and secondary deaths due to factors — such as lack of access to medical — after the storm passed, leaving the island devastated.
Data analyzed by TPM in mid-April suggested that as of April 13, 2020, 13,000 New Yorkers had died of COVID-19 and other causes who would otherwise be alive.
Within the 24,171 excess deaths through May 2 calculated by the CDC are 13,831 people who tested positive for COVID-19, and an additional 5,048 deaths of what the city refers to as “probable” COVID-19 deaths: people who died with the symptoms of the illness but who were either never tested or never tested positive.
That leaves 5,293 more people who died in New York City above the seasonal average. Those deaths, the CDC said, could be yet more undiagnosed COVID-19 cases, or could be people who simply died because the world around them had slowly broken down.
That includes deaths due to delays in health care, due to “social distancing practices, the demand on hospitals and health care providers, and public fear related to COVID-19,” according to the CDC.
The pandemic is not yet over, and death counts are still preliminary, the CDC cautioned.