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NYC to begin counting home deaths suspected to be COVID-19 as coronavirus deaths, even without a test


Numbers can be misleading

Funeral parlor workers move a body from a refrigeration truck serving as a temporary morgue at the Brooklyn Hospital Center to a hearse in the Borough of Brooklyn on Wednesday in New York. (Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images)

If there's a dramatic increase in the number of coronavirus deaths in New York City in the coming days, it likely won't be because conditions worsened in the city, but because of a change in the way deaths are counted.

Gothamist reported that the city will begin counting people who die at home with evidence of coronavirus infection as coronavirus deaths, even if that person did not test positive for the virus.

"The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) and the NYC Health Department are working together to include into their reports deaths that may be linked to COVID but not lab confirmed that occur at home," New York City health department spokeswoman Stephanie Buhle said in a statement.

The statement did not specify when the change would be implemented.

New York City has seen a sharp increase in the number of home deaths in recent weeks, leading to speculation that the coronavirus could be the cause of many of those deaths. The New York City Fire Department reported that 2,192 residents died at home over the past two weeks, compared to only 453 during the same period last year.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he's comfortable making the assumption that the increase in home deaths has been caused by the coronavirus, although without testing, it's impossible to know for sure.

"We do want to know the truth about every death at home, but it's safe to assume that the vast majority are coronavirus-related," de Blasio said, according to Gothamist. "That makes it even more sober, the sense of how many people we are losing."

An anonymous fire department source told the Gothamist that in the past week, he's seen significantly more cardiac arrest cases from people whose families say were recently discharged from the hospital or who just consulted with doctors through phone appointments.

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