New York officials are looking into past deaths to try to locate any that may have been caused by COVID-19 but aren’t included in the state’s current death toll.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo cited updated guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), saying federal officials want confirmed deaths and a new category, “probable deaths,” or deaths that are believed but not confirmed to have been caused by COVID-19.
The determination is made by local health departments or coroners.
“We’re going to rationalize those new reporting requirements with local governments and get that information out as soon as we can,” Cuomo told reporters in Albany on Wednesday.
Officials are working on contacting elder care facilities to try to find out if there were people who passed away recently from COVID-19 but weren’t in a hospital or nursing home.
“There is a sense that there may be additional people that passed away, but they weren’t included in the count because they weren’t in a hospital, they weren’t in a nursing home,” the governor said.
According to CDC guidelines, people who died without having laboratory confirmed cases of COVID-19 can be listed as likely having died from the disease.
“If the certifier suspects COVID-19 or determines it was likely (e.g., the circumstances were compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty), they can report COVID-19 as ‘probable’ or ‘presumed’ on the death certificate,” the guidelines state.
The differentiation was explained by a federal official last week but wasn’t widely noticed until New York City officials added more than 3,000 deaths that took place in the last five weeks to the city’s official COVID-19 death toll.
“We want to make sure that every New Yorker is counted that has been taken from this vicious virus,” Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot told reporters in Manhattan earlier Wednesday. She said it would take officials “a fair amount of time to tease out” what happened with the deaths presumed to be from COVID-19, “if we’re ever able to do that.”