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NYC's actual coronavirus death toll is potentially much higher than the officially reported number

Unconfirmed home deaths

Kena Betancur/Getty Images

The number of people who have died from COVID-19 in New York City could be significantly higher than the official reported number because so many people are dying at home and not being tested for the virus, Gothamist reported.

Why? The official number of coronavirus deaths includes only people who were confirmed through a test to have COVID-19, but if someone dies at home, they aren't tested to see whether or not they had the virus, even if it seems likely that they had it based on symptoms and the nature of the death.

The medical examiner's office does report "probable" coronavirus cases to the health department, but those probable cases aren't added into the official total. There has been a spike in home deaths in New York City recently:

As of Monday afternoon, 2,738 New York City residents have died from "confirmed" cases of COVID-19, according to the city Department of Health. That's an average of 245 a day since the previous Monday.

But another 200 city residents are now dying at home each day, compared to 20 to 25 such deaths before the pandemic, said Aja Worthy-Davis, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner's office. And an untold number of them are unconfirmed.

Bad news and good news: Although the idea that potentially thousands more people have died of the coronavirus that reported is concerning, the issue of a lack of testing also means that the number of cases is probably much higher than reported, meaning the overall mortality rate would be lower.

Underlying conditions: A majority of deaths attributed to the coronavirus occur in people who have other underlying health conditions. Since March 14, 86% of those who died of the coronavirus in New York had underlying health conditions, most commonly hypertension and diabetes.

The issue of underlying conditions has been noted in Italy, where it's possible that people who test positive for COVID-19 but who may have actually died from another condition are being counted as coronavirus deaths. A recent study showed that 99% of Italy's coronavirus deaths were people with underlying conditions, and the average age of those who died was 79.5.

One last thing…
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