Covid-19 Deaths In New York City

How many people have died due to Covid-19 in NYC?

There is considerable confusion about the answer to that question due to a couple of reasons. First, deaths due to Covid-19 fall under two categories: confirmed and probable. The latter category cases are deaths in which the deceased displayed symptoms resembling Covid-19. Because the symptoms of Covid-19 resemble those of other diseases, doctors cannot state with certainty whether the death occurred due to the novel coronavirus without comprehensive tests. Based on data released by the city, the number of such probable cases comprises a quarter of all deaths that are being reported as Covid-19 deaths. Second, lax rates of testing for the disease during its early days makes it difficult to estimate the number of deaths that actually occurred due to it. As the city ramps up its testing capabilities, it is likely that future data will be more accurate and the numbers will increase substantially.

The problem with the data regarding Covid-19 fatalities is not only restricted to New York City. It is magnified on a global scale, with some estimating as many as 10 unreported cases of Covid-19 for every single case that is reported.

According to city data, there were 23,201 deaths in the city due to Covid-19. Assuming a population of 8.3 million for New York City (i.e., not including its metropolitan area) that figure works out to 279.5 deaths per 100,000 city residents. Represented in another way, it represents roughly 0.28 percent of the city’s population.

For (an improper) context, there were 547.5 deaths per 100,000 people in the city in 2017 – the last year for which such data is available online. It is important to remember here that this figure represents a yearly average and has not been counted over a three-month period. Those deaths also occurred due to a variety of diseases and conditions. CDC ranked heart disease as the number-one killer in NYC for those who did not die before 65. (Interestingly, influenza and pneumonia, which share symptoms with Covid-19, were the fifth-most fatal diseases in the city in 2017). On an overall basis, the city’s death rate consistently declined at an average rate of 17.4% per year between 2008 and 2017. 2020 will likely buck that trend and the average death rate should surge for this year.

Not surprisingly, New York City residents aged 65 and over have borne the brunt of Covid-19’s fatal infection. Thirteen thousand seven hundred and two individuals in that age range died due to complications resulting from Covid-19. That works to approximately 801 deaths per 100,000 persons aged 65 and over due to the disease. Statista has broken down the demographics in a chart below.

During my research for this post, I also came across this interesting study conducted at Northwell Health, the largest academic health system in New York. The study sample consisted of 5700 patients with a median age of 68 years. Out of that figure, only 373 were admitted to the intensive care unit. Older persons (those ages 65 and over), men, and those with pre-existing conditions were most likely to die due to the virus. Hypertension, obesity, and diabetes were the top three pre-existing conditions for patients who died due to the virus.

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