In recent days, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have touted data that appears to show a slight plateau in the number of coronavirus deaths in the city and state.
What city officials have not acknowledged until Tuesday is that the coronavirus death tally for the five boroughs may not be accounting for those dying at home from COVID-19.
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"I am assuming that the vast majority of those deaths are coronavirus related. It’s understandable in a crisis that being able to make the confirmation is harder to do with all the resources stretched so thin," de Blasio said Tuesday when asked about at-home coronavirus deaths.
The president of the union representing more than 4,000 uniformed Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) told NY1 that his members are concerned that those dying of coronavirus at home are being forgotten.
"If you are not going to report the bodies on the street, then of course the numbers are going to go down because we are not bringing those bodies to be counted," said Oren Barzilay, the President of Local 2507: Uniformed EMT's, Paramedics & Fire Inspectors.
Data provided by the FDNY does raise the question of whether deaths at home caused by the coronavirus are being included in the COVID-19 tally.
On April 5 of last year, the FDNY responded to a total of 73 calls for medical service. 29 of the 73 involved patients were dead when medics arrived.
This year, the department said EMTs responded to more than five times as many calls on the same day and encountered nearly six times as many dead patients, at 241.
Even so, the city reported just 184 coronavirus deaths for the day, a number that supposedly included tallies from all local hospitals.
"I don't think that they are doing this intentionally; I just think its impossible with the volume they are dealing with right now," said Barzilay.
Sources with the NYPD have raised similar concerns.
Police are required to respond to all at-home deaths to investigate possible foul play.
Sources told NY1 that the sheer number of at home deaths they've been called to in recent days has jumped exponentially.
One detective, who asked not to be identified, attributed the increase to new state guidelines advising EMT's not to transport patients to the hospital if they do not respond to CPR or other on-site treatments.
Manhattan Councilman Mark Levine has also sounded the alarm.
On Twitter he wrote, "Only people who die at home who are known to have a *positive coronavirus test* have the disease listed as the official cause on their death certificate. We know there are many others going uncounted."
During NY1's “Mondays with the Mayor” segment, de Blasio was asked for the first time about the city’s tally of at home coronavirus deaths. He said no one is trying to downplay just how deadly the disease is.
“We can speak to, in the coming days, our understanding of what's happening to those that we are losing at home, but I feel very comfortable saying, against this horrible, painful backdrop, that we are never going to underestimate what we are seeing,” said de Blasio.
NY1 reached out to the city's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner several times over the past week, but it has not respond to our request for comment.
Main story image: A file photo of FDNY paramedics outside NewYork-Presbyterian in Manhattan. Mary Altaffer/AP.
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