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NYC Deaths Soar Past 10k in Move to Count ‘Probable’ Fatalities

Days after New York City said it would look to include presumed or probable COVID-19 deaths in its official virus fatality toll, it revised its reporting structure to do just that. And the numbers are jarring.

According to the city's Department of Health, there were at least 10,367 confirmed or probable deaths in the five boroughs as of Tuesday evening, which is nearly 2,500 more than where Gov. Andrew Cuomo put New York state earlier in the day. The probable cases now being counted by authorities are those who likely died of COVID-19, but died before they could be tested.

The change in the city’s accounting of deaths came after officials acknowledged that statistics based only on lab-confirmed tests were failing to account for many people dying at home before they reached a hospital or even sought treatment.

The FDNY has recorded as many as 200 daily deaths at home in recent weeks, far more than the average 25 deaths at home before the pandemic. Latest New York City News It recorded nearly 2,200 "cardiac arrest" home deaths between March 20 and April 5 -- a 400 percent spike over the same period the year prior.

The blunt truth, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, is that "coronavirus is driving these tragic deaths." And he said it was critical to include them in the toll.

After releasing the new numbers Tuesday, NYC Department of Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said, "While these data reflect the tragic impact that the virus has had on our city, they will also help us to determine the scale and scope of the epidemic and guide us in our decisions."

Casualties have been undercounted worldwide, experts say, due not only to limits in testing but the different ways nations count the dead. The CDC recently issued new guidance saying it is acceptable to count undiagnosed COVID-19 cases as “probable” or “presumed” coronavirus deaths under circumstances that are “compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty.”

Last week, Cuomo said he was also interested in finding a way to count people who die at home without being tested. It wasn't immediately clear Wednesday if he planned to modify state reporting to reflect what New York City has done.

By the governor's official website, New York had 202,208 COVID-19 cases and 10,834 deaths as of Tuesday. That's a third of all cases in America, and a slightly higher share of the country's deaths. Cuomo still pointed to new signs of hope, including total hospitalizations, which ticked down for the first time.

In New York City, de Blasio has focused on key three daily metrics -- the number of hospitalizations, the number of ICU admissions and the percentage of people testing positive -- that he wants to see all trend down, in unison. When that happens for at least 10 days, he says, that will indicate the city can begin to think about entering the next phase of the crisis, which the mayor described as low-level virus transmission. On Monday, all three dropped. By Tuesday, just one did.

"This is the real world, real talk. We had a really good day yesterday. Today, no such luck," de Blasio said Tuesday. "It doesn't mean you should be discouraged. We have to fight our way out of this. We've got to start some momentum here. Then we'll be in a position to talk about our next steps."

New Jersey remains the nation's second-most impacted state next to New York, with nearly 70,000 cases and more than 2,800 dead as of Tuesday. Connecticut had 13,989 COVID-19 cases and nearly 700 deaths as of its last report.

In total, a virus unknown in this region 45 days ago has now killed nearly 20,000 people locally.

While Cuomo says the worst may be behind us, he says the crisis itself likely won't be over until we have a vaccine, which could be anywhere from a year to 18 months out, if not longer. Worldwide, there are 70 vaccines in development.

Paving the Way to a New Normal
Though the curve of new COVID-19 cases is flattening, people are still getting sick, people are still being put into intensive care, and people are still dying. The death toll is a "lagging indicator," Cuomo has said, meaning it will continue to rise even as hospitalizations and intubations level off. The question isn't so much when we'll get back to normal. It's how normal will change going forward.

President Trump has pitched a rollout approach to reopening the economy, a tactic he said Tuesday could involve up to 20 lower-impact states opening up even before his hopeful May 1 date of a national reboot. Trump acknowledged that wouldn't be the case for the hardest-hit states like New York, saying he would support them reopening "piece by piece" as it was appropriate.

As Cuomo said Tuesday, "How you reopen is everything. We could lose all the progress we made in one week if we do it wrong."

He is at the helm of a new coalition of seven governors that plans to try to figure out how to do it right. So far, Press Release Distribution Service USA they all agree it most definitely won't happen all at once. It'll be incremental, a process of easing, not evaporating, restrictions. And it'll involve social distancing for another month at least, if not longer.

It'll also require expansive testing, testing to a capacity that Cuomo says the states don't have the ability to provide on their own. Trump says it's up to them.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy says his state has been playing the hand its been dealt to the maximum potential. It's not a great hand, like the ones many other states have been dealt, but one he'll keep playing because it's all he's got.

He's been one of the staunchest supporters of social distancing in the entire country, and re-upped the rhetoric as he announced the single biggest daily increase in deaths (365) in New Jersey on Tuesday.

"We've got to keep our foot down" on social distancing, he said. "Let's only go through this once. Let's keep our focus on what we have to do today. We will get through this, and we will get through this together."

Unemployment claims have spiked to record numbers. The federal government's coronavirus relief packages were seen as one route to get the economy going, but a key component -- individual relief checks -- may be further delayed after Trump issued the unprecedented demand that his name be put on the payouts.

Americans are growing increasingly desperate. Concerns of alcoholism are on the rise. Nearly 40 percent of New Yorkers freely admit drinking while working at home. That number might be even higher -- if more had jobs in the first place.

One of the most widely cited virus models, from the Gates Foundation-backed IHME, estimates that new deaths in the tri-state area will more or less end by the first week of May, assuming social distancing is maintained. The latest projections forecast virus-related deaths to peak around 14,500 in New York and 4,400 in New Jersey by May 1. Connecticut likely won't see its curve stabilize until early June, when it is expected to reach about 5,400 fatalities.

That same model predicts more than 68,000 deaths nationally by early June, which falls well below earlier projections -- a credit to mitigation efforts, officials say.

To date, the United States has seen more than 600,000 cases and nearly 30,000 deaths, according to NBC News estimates.

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