The additional deaths – 3,778, to be exact – include people who are “presumed to have been infected because of their symptoms and medical history,” according to two sources cited by the New York Times, which reported the deaths on Tuesday.
These “probables” bring the total number of casualties for New York City to 10,367 and raise the nation’s total death toll by a whopping 17 percent. Over 26,000 people are now considered to have died with the coronavirus in the US, according to the Times.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio had initially declined to include the “probables” as coronavirus deaths but reportedly changed his mind after a weekend briefing, the sources said, adding that most of the presumed deaths took place in hospitals.
While New York has tested more people per capita for coronavirus than anywhere else in the US, it joins several other sites – city health commissioner Oxiris Barbot named Connecticut, Ohio, Maryland, and Delaware – that began reporting “probable” cases as coronavirus deaths this week. Other sites, including California and Seattle, have limited their casualty counts to those that can be confirmed by testing.
Disagreements between local and regional health authorities over the number of coronavirus deaths have also been blamed on the use of “different data systems.” New York City authorities have complained that the state has dragged its feet sharing data from hospitals and nursing homes.
A similar decision to classify cases that haven’t tested positive as coronavirus was reported by the Times earlier this month. The oddly-worded piece claimed “experts said” that “a vast majority of people visiting emergency rooms with flu-like symptoms probably have the coronavirus.”
Some city hospitals were no longer even bothering to test for influenza, instead assuming that everyone with flu-like symptoms was a coronavirus patient, an infectious disease specialist told the outlet.
The classification has raised more than a few eyebrows among medical professionals and laypeople alike. Minnesota state senator and physician Dr. Scott Jensen slammed as “ridiculous” the Centers for Disease Control guidelines advising doctors to list cause of death as coronavirus even in the absence of a test. “We are going to undermine the public trust,” he told Fox News last week, warning that the public’s “trust in politicians is already wearing thin.”