News & Politics

NYC Officials Now Counting Deaths of Those Who ‘Never Tested Positive’ in Coronavirus Totals

Emergency medical technicians disinfect their equipment after delivering a patient to Elmhurst Hospital Center, Saturday, April 4, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Following a number of missteps by local officials, New York City became the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States. The situation there eclipses virtually everywhere else in the country. A report from the New York Times on Tuesday suggests that as bad as the situation in New York City is even worse now—with one caveat. According to their report, New York City “sharply increased its [coronavirus] death toll by more than 3,700 victims on Tuesday, after officials said they were now including people who had never tested positive for the virus but were presumed to have died of it.”

What? People who never tested positive for the coronavirus are being counted in the official death toll? Why would they do that?

Justin Hart, an information architect and data analyst, spoke with PJ Media about this story.

“NYC officials published their first bid data repository in the first days of April. The data jumped up and down and there was an expectation that we should expect a bit of chaos while the data ‘normalized.’ But this is something else entirely,” he said.

“Buried deep within the Github notes of the data which NYC makes available was a blurb about how hospitalizations were estimated. They used the term ‘Ever Hospitalized.’  As they termed it this was to capture ‘suspected’ patients of COVID by going back and checking the database of people with similar symptoms. The reason given was that they were short-staffed and wanted to understand the true impact… fair enough. Apparently, they had not extended this to deaths.”

That is, until now. And while officials may be thinking they’re are now providing more complete data, the data is now highly suspect.

“A lot of states are doing that ‘suspected cases’ stuff, which seems reasonable—you want to know burdens on a hospital—but to just plop that into the death column is a whole other thing.”

The problem, Hart explains, is that these deaths didn’t occur overnight, but the various dashboards recording coronavirus deaths will record them as a big daily jump, distorting the data.

Why would NYC officials, and officials other states want to potentially show more coronavirus deaths than they actually experienced?

“There are some pretty big incentives to include them :(“>”There are some pretty big incentives to include them,” Hart noted. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, pays 20 percent more in federal aid to hospitals for coronavirus cases.

Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis

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