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Abstract
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, and has since spread worldwide. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic (1). That same day, the first confirmed COVID-19-associated fatality occurred in New York City (NYC). To identify confirmed COVID-19-associated deaths, defined as those occurring in persons with laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, on March 13, 2020, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) initiated a daily match between all deaths reported to the DOHMH electronic vital registry system (eVital) (2) and laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19. Deaths for which COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, or an equivalent term is listed on the death certificate as an immediate, underlying, or contributing cause of death, but that do not have laboratory-confirmation of COVID-19 are classified as probable COVID-19-associated deaths. As of May 2, a total of 13,831 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19-associated deaths, and 5,048 probable COVID-19-associated deaths were recorded in NYC (3). Counting only confirmed or probable COVID-19-associated deaths, however, likely underestimates the number of deaths attributable to the pandemic. The counting of confirmed and probable COVID-19-associated deaths might not include deaths among persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection who did not access diagnostic testing, tested falsely negative, or became infected after testing negative, died outside of a health care setting, or for whom COVID-19 was not suspected by a health care provider as a cause of death. The counting of confirmed and probable COVID-19-associated deaths also does not include deaths that are not directly associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection. The objective of this report is to provide an estimate of all-cause excess deaths that have occurred in NYC in the setting of widespread community transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Excess deaths refer to the number of deaths above expected seasonal baseline levels, regardless of the reported cause of death. Estimation of all-cause excess deaths is used as a nonspecific measure of the severity or impact of pandemics (4) and public health emergencies (5). Reporting of excess deaths might provide a more accurate measure of the impact of the pandemic.
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