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Teams are retrieving up to 280 bodies a day from NYC homes

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  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo releases an official death toll for New York each day.
  • But that number only includes deaths of individuals who tested positive for the coronavirus and later died.
  • As of Friday morning, Johns Hopkins University had tallied 5,150 COVID-19 deaths in New York City.
  • Health officials told The New York Times the true number of deaths is likely much higher.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

About 120 death workers and US soldiers work around the clock to pick up as many as 280 bodies a day from New York City homes, according to The New York Times.

While many of these individuals likely died of the coronavirus, their deaths are probably not counted in the official death count, The Times’ Ali Watkins and William Rashbaum reported.

New York City and the state as a whole collect their death toll differently.

The state tally is based on hospital data, which includes people who have tested positive for the virus and die in the facilities, The Times reported.

In the city, any patient who has had a positive coronavirus test and then later dies at home or in a hospital is being counted, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Health, told The Times.

FILE PHOTO: A hospital worker attempts to block visual access as a deceased person is tended to in a temporary morgue outside of Brooklyn Hospital Center during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, U.S., April 1, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

Individual hospitals, too, might have different methods of data collection, The Times reported.

“To date, we have only been recording on people who have had the test,” Barbot told The Times. 

The problem there is that there is currently no clear way of counting the number of untested individuals who have died at home from presumed COVID-19 in the official tolls — and that number is significant.

For example, The Times reported, in the first eight days of April, 1,891 people died at home or on the streets of New York City. Paramedics are not performing coronavirus tests on those they pronounce dead.

While some of those individuals certainly died for reasons unrelated to the virus, right now we don’t know how many people that might be.

“I don’t know how many more bodies I can take,” Patrick Marmo, a funeral-home operator based in Brooklyn, previously told Business Insider’s Dave Mosher. “No one in the New York City area possibly has enough equipment to care for human remains of this magnitude.”

The coronavirus ‘is the tragic “X” factor here’

coronavirus

Healthcare workers wheel the body of deceased person from the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 2, 2020.

REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid


“The driver of this huge uptick in deaths at home is COVID-19. And some people are dying directly of it, and some people are dying indirectly of it, but it is the tragic ‘X’ factor here,”  Mayor Bill de Blasio told the reporters Thursday.

In pre-pandemic times, strict protocols were in place to determine the cause of death, but during a crisis of this magnitude those protocols are often abandoned, The Times reported.

Because of that, differences between how each hospital collects their data, and the likely presence of comorbidities — like a COVID-19 patient having a heart attack — make calculating an accurate death toll a challenge at best.

Dr. Howard Markel, a professor of medical history at the University of Michigan, told The Times that it’s almost impossible to grasp the full scale of a pandemic in real time.

As of Friday morning, Johns Hopkins University had tallied 5,150 COVID-19 deaths in New York City.

“You have an idea of what numbers are, but you don’t have an exact source,” Markel told The Times.

“Even if we’re underestimating deaths and cases, particularly in the New York situation, there are enough of both to tell us this is very serious,” he added. “It’s already all hands on deck.”

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