New York

Hochul raises COVID death toll 28% higher; New number in line with CDC tally

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks to reporters Tuesday
PHOTOGRAPHER:
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks to reporters Tuesday

ALBANY — Sixteen new COVID-related deaths were reported Wednesday in New York but the official death toll jumped by 12,000. 

Gov. Kathy Hochul opted to stop using the state Department of Health’s tally in favor of the federal Centers for Disease Control tally.

Through Tuesday, the CDC-tallied death toll was 55,423. The state counts 43,432.

The difference is almost entirely in New York City, the early epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.

The city Health Department counts 33,763 residents dead and the CDC counts 33,766 but the state counts just 23,239. The city counts “presumed” deaths but the state had refused to.

This practice, and the state’s long-running refusal to release a full count of nursing home deaths, drew widespread criticism that then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo was obfuscating the true impact of the pandemic on the state under his leadership.

Cuomo and his aides maintained that they were trying not to obfuscate but to be accurate. 

Hochul, sworn in Tuesday as successor to Cuomo after his resignation, distanced herself Wednesday from her predecessor’s stance and pledged a more open approach.

“There are presumed and confirmed deaths. People should know both,” she said Wednesday on NPR’s Morning Edition. “Also, as of yesterday, we’re using CDC numbers which’ll be consistent. So, there’s no opportunity for us to mask those numbers, nor would I want to mask those numbers. The public deserves a clear, honest picture of what’s happening. Whether it’s good or bad, they need to know the truth and that’s how we restore confidence.”

On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, she said: “There’s a lot of things that weren’t happening and I’m going to make them happen. Transparency will be the hallmark of my administration. It’s not hard to do, you just get the information out there and address them.”

For the 57 counties outside New York City, there is zero discrepancy between the death tolls tallied by the state DOH and federal CDC.

The state reports a cumulative 20,193 COVID deaths outside New York City and the feds report 20,185. The difference is eight — exactly the number of new deaths outside New York City reported by the state Wednesday.

However, there remains considerable disagreement between locally generated statistics and state-generated stats in some counties.

The Albany County Department of Health, for example, has 8% more names on its list of county residents killed by the virus than the state does.

Schenectady County Public Health Services, by contrast, counts 22% fewer resident COVID deaths than the state does.

An Albany County spokeswoman said any number of factors can skew the count if different people are doing the counting, including place of death and delays in reporting. The county, she said, stands by its own tally.

A Schenectady County spokeswoman noted that ZIP codes associated with one county often spill over into another county. So county health workers verify the place of residence before adding an infection or a death to the county’s official totals.

As of Wednesday, the county-reported and state-reported COVID death tolls for area counties were:

County County-reported deaths State-reported deaths
Albany 389 360
Fulton N/A 93
Montgomery N/A 128
Rensselaer 168 150
Saratoga 176 176
Schenectady 164 209
Schoharie N/A 19

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