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New York City adds thousands to COVID-19 death toll who never tested positive for the virus

The inclusion of 3,700 'presumed' deaths from the coronavirus sent the total count over 10,000

(Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

New York City's total coronavirus death toll saw a major spike on Tuesday, after officials added more than 3,700 fatalities to the count "including people who had never tested positive for the virus but were presumed to have died of it," the New York Times reported.

What are the details?

The new criteria means the deaths attributed to COVID-19 in New York City since March 11 are now higher than 10,000, Reuters reported.

ABC News reported that the new "probable" cases are "deaths of people — at nursing homes, assisted living facilities and private homes — who never received a test, but are likely to have died of coronavirus in the last month."

Without the 3,778 new "probable" deaths of individuals who were not confirmed to have had the virus, the count would be at 6,589 using the criteria requested by the CDC for only counting people who tested positive for the virus.

In a statement explaining the revised numbers, New York Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said, "We are focused on ensuring that every New Yorker who died because of COVID-19 gets counted." She told the Times, "We are more than happy to report on probables."

Including the numbers of non-confirmed cases in the tally puts New York City's coronavirus death rate per capita higher than that seen in Italy, a country ravaged by the virus.

Yet, without testing people for coronavirus, officials cannot be certain that the individuals added to the new count actually died of COVID-19 — meaning the numbers could be inflated.

New York City Council member Brad Lander reasoned in a Twitter thread regarding the new numbers that "people with higher incomes are more likely to get tests, more likely to get to hospitals, less likely to die in their homes."

He added, "People are dying from non-COVID causes (e.g. hearts [sic] attack, kidney failure) that they might have been saved from, if our hospitals weren't overwhelmed."

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