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15 Apr, 2020 19:23

Permanent crisis: New York divides scientific opinion with decision to add 3,700 ‘presumed’ Covid-19 dead to official tally

Permanent crisis: New York divides scientific opinion with decision to add 3,700 ‘presumed’ Covid-19 dead to official tally

New York City has increased its officially recorded number of Covid-19 victims by more than 40 percent, after making the presumption that people found dead in their homes who had never tested positive for the virus had died of it.

New York City has fallen prey to the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdowns it brings with it. It is currently one of the worst-hit places in the world, with stories of mass graves being dug and refrigerated trucks parked on streets full of bodies, all painting a morbid picture. On a per-capita basis it has had more deaths than Italy – at least, according to its somewhat dodgy official record-keeping – and its streets are all but deserted.

And now, the city’s Health Department has revealed that they have been recording “probable” coronavirus deaths separately since the outbreak began. Until now, only those confirmed via laboratory test have been included in the official tallies. According to officials, 2,192 New Yorkers have died in their homes in the past two weeks, more than four times as many as did last year. And so, with one stroke of a pen, the total number of coronavirus deaths in the US has shot up by 17 percent.

The decision has raised eyebrows among those skeptical of extreme lockdown measures. When the New York Times posted the story on its Twitter account on Tuesday, the sardonic responses immediately started to fly in. “MAN CRUSHED BY STEAMROLLER DIES OF CORONAVIRUS” and “MAN EATEN BY SHARK DIES OF CORONAVIRUS, PELOSI BLAMES TRUMP” read spoof headlines posted by users.

Many more were also amused by the use of the term “presumed,” and it must be said that the officials’ decision, whether right or wrong, comes at a time when more and more people are beginning to question aspects of the official coronavirus narrative.

Split opinions

But some people are on board. Defenders of the city politicians who made the decision point out that attributing the deaths to Covid-19 is a simple matter of subtraction. According to the city Health Department’s head honcho Dr Oxiris Barbot, 3,000 more people than usual died in New York City between March 11 and April 13.

Therefore, the additional deaths must be due to the coronavirus. It may seem simple, but unfortunately, this is akin to adding two plus one and getting four. Undoubtedly, among those thousands of untested dead found in their apartments, some would have had coronavirus, and some of those may even have died from it.

But, as the British government is realising, the potential for avoidable deaths caused by the lockdown is vast. Particularly, the virtual suspension of all normal healthcare measures for chronically ill and elderly people will cost many lives, and it is surely the case that this is what killed some of those who have been chalked off as coronavirus victims. This will be particularly galling to people who have warned of the risk of indirect deaths caused by economic shutdowns and the attendant dangers to public health.

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Fanning the flames

New York’s move will prick up the ears of those who believe that the lockdown responses to the outbreak have been disproportionate. An unsympathetic reading of the decision would suggest that those in power needed there to be more coronavirus deaths than there have been in order to justify their lockdown. Rather than simply acknowledge that a mistake had been made, rolling back the restrictions and reopening businesses, they have doubled down, preferring to cut off their nose to spite their face. Again, this is an unsympathetic reading of the situation, and readers will have to make up their own mind about what the true motivations for the move are.

But if this reading is in any way accurate, it is certainly a very transparent attempt to hoodwink the public into accepting artificially inflated figures. It certainly undermines any attempts to say this is an evidence-based approach, when there is zero evidence these 3,700 were killed by the virus. It could well further inflame tensions and undermine the trust of the public in institutions, at a time when civil unrest remains a distinct possibility.

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Whether or not there is foul play at work, changing the recording system at this stage is certainly inflammatory. Dr Barbot said that for New Yorkers, the increased count is “part of the healing process that we’re going to have to go through.” He may be right. Alternatively, some magic numbers may have appeared in the record books. This being New York, it wouldn’t be the first time.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.