The number of coronavirus-related deaths in New York recently crossed the 20,000-milestone.
Or has it?
According to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the city reported on Wednesday 20,316 confirmed or probable deaths.
But, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is reporting a much different figure.
Cuomo’s office is only reporting 14,380 deaths across the entire state, including New York City—a difference of nearly 6,000 people.
So, which is accurate?
Politico reports the state’s overall count has consistently lagged behind the information reported by the cities as they are having to verify the figures.
Cuomo is operating and making policy decisions on the lower figure, even though he admits the real figure is likely higher.
“I think we’re going to find, when all is said and done, that the numbers are much different than we actually thought they were,” he said last week per Politico. “And I think it’s going to be worse when the final numbers are tallied. We’re also not fully documenting all the at-home deaths that may be attributable to COVID-19, so I think the reality is going to actually be worse.”
Officials did not account for the hold-up. State Health Department spokesperson Jonah Bruno said the state currently relies on fatality data reported by hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities and only includes confirmed Covid-19 deaths in its fatality tracker.
But that leaves a lot of room for error, said Dr. Sally Aiken, president of the National Association of Medical Examiners.
“In certain circumstances, people weren’t tested. Tests weren’t available. The tests have known false negatives,” Aiken told POLITICO. “I don’t know why they wouldn’t count probables.”
Even beyond the more than 20,000 Covid-19 deaths tallied by the de Blasio administration, the number of deaths in the city was 5,300 above normal levels from March 11 through May 2. Those extra deaths may include people who died from Covid-19 without medical providers realizing they had the virus.
They may also include people who died from other causes, like heart disease or strokes, and delayed seeking help because of fear of contagion, or did not get the care they needed because hospitals and the 911 system were overwhelmed. Other people likely had existing medical conditions that were aggravated by the stress of the pandemic.