Five weeks into the coronavirus outbreak, officials in New York and New Jersey hoped that the number of virus-related deaths had reached a peak and would flatten or drop on Tuesday for a third straight day.
It did not happen.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said yesterday that 731 people had died of the virus since Monday, the state’s highest one-day total yet by more than 100.
“Behind every one of those numbers is an individual, is a family, is a mother, is a father, is a sister, is a brother,” Mr. Cuomo said at his daily briefing in Albany. “So a lot of pain again today for many New Yorkers.”
New Jersey also hit a new one-day high on Tuesday, with 232 people dying of the virus since the previous day, Gov. Philip D. Murphy said. On Sunday and Monday, deaths in the state were in the double digits.
Connecticut also reported its biggest one-day increase in deaths on Tuesday, with Gov. Ned Lamont saying 71 people had died since the day before. By comparison, Mr. Lamont had reported 17 new deaths on Monday.
The three states together reported 1,034 deaths in a day, the first time that the region’s one-day toll topped 1,000.
Virus deaths are going uncounted as more people die at home.
As of Tuesday, more than 4,000 had died from the coronavirus in New York City, according to data from the city and state.
But as awful as the official figures are, they likely understate deaths by many hundreds if not thousands: People who die at home without ever having been tested for the virus are often left out of the accounting.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said on CNN Wednesday morning that there were “100 to 200 people per day” in the city who die at home and are presumed to be virus victims.
“There is no question the coronavirus is driving this,” Mr. de Blasio said. “We didn’t see this during normal times.”
The head of the City Council’s health committee, Councilman Mark Levine, wrote on Twitter that on a normal day in the city, fewer than 25 people die at home.
According to the news site Gothamist, the city medical examiner’s office has not been testing dead bodies for the virus and has instead referred what it considers “probable” virus deaths to the city’s health department.
But the health department counts only confirmed virus cases in its official death tally, suggesting that many virus deaths were being missed.
“It’s understandable in a crisis that being able to make the confirmation is harder to do, with all the resources stretched so thin,” Mr. de Blasio said on Tuesday. City officials, he said, were focusing their resources on “saving the next life.”
How delays and missed chances hindered New York’s virus fight.
|Carpenters retrofit a refrigerator semi trailer to use as makeshift morgue outside of NYU Langone Medical Center.|
Carpenters retrofit a refrigerator semi trailer to use as makeshift morgue outside of NYU Langone Medical Center.Credit...Jonah Markowitz for The New York Times
A 39-year-old woman took Flight 701 from Doha, Qatar, to John F. Kennedy International Airport in late February, the final leg of her trip home to New York City from Iran.
A week later, on March 1, she tested positive for the coronavirus, the first confirmed case in New York City of an outbreak that had already devastated China and parts of Europe. The next day, Governor Cuomo, appearing with Mayor de Blasio at a news conference, promised that health investigators would track down every person on the woman’s flight. But no one did.
A day later, a lawyer from New Rochelle, a New York City suburb, tested positive for the virus — an alarming sign because he had not traveled to any affected country, suggesting community spread was already taking place.
Although city investigators had traced the lawyer’s whereabouts and connections to the most crowded corridors of Manhattan, the state’s efforts focused on the suburb, not the city, and Mr. de Blasio urged the public not to worry. “We’ll tell you the second we think you should change your behavior,” the mayor said on March 5.
For many days after the first positive test, as the coronavirus silently spread through the region, Mr. Cuomo, Mr. de Blasio and their top aides projected an unswerving confidence that the outbreak would be readily contained.
There would be cases, they repeatedly said, but New York’s hospitals were some of the best in the world. Plans were in place. Responses had been rehearsed during “tabletop” exercises. After all, the city had been here before — Ebola, Zika, the H1N1 virus, even Sept. 11.
“Excuse our arrogance as New Yorkers — I speak for the mayor also on this one — we think we have the best health care system on the planet right here in New York,” Mr. Cuomo said on March 2. “So, when you’re saying, what happened in other countries versus what happened here, we don’t even think it’s going to be as bad as it was in other countries.”
But now, New York City and the surrounding suburbs have become the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, with far more cases than many countries have.
More than 138,000 people in the state have tested positive for the virus, nearly all of them in the city and nearby suburbs. More than 5,000 people have died.
And, The New York Times found, initial efforts by New York officials to stem the outbreak were hampered by their own confused guidance, unheeded warnings, delayed decisions and political infighting.
UNHEEDED WARNINGS Officials in New York projected early confidence that the virus could be contained, but missed chances to stem its spread.
The M.T.A. staggers under the impact of the virus.
At least 33 transit workers have died from the coronavirus and over 6,000 have been infected or have self-quarantined.Credit...Gregg Vigliotti for The New York Times
The coronavirus has ravaged the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency that runs the subway, buses and commuter rails in New York City. At least 41 transit workers have died, more than 6,000 more have fallen sick or self-quarantined and the hobbled agency is struggling to run on time.
The agency’s workers said that officials at the M.T.A. were slow to respond, dismissed their early concerns about the virus and did not supply them protective gear or cleaning supplies.
“Daily service can barely be maintained right now, and soon they’re not going to have the manpower to run these trains at all,” said Canella Gomez, a train operator who has worked for the agency for eight years. “The M.T.A. dropped the ball with this. They let us get sick on the job. Now it’s too late.”
Around 1,500 transit workers have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 5,604 others have self-quarantined because they are showing symptoms of the infection.
Transit officials say they acted as quickly as possible to protect workers and riders. The authority is disinfecting train cars and buses every three days and has urged riders to avoid crowding in subway cars.
‘THEY LET US GET SICK’ At least 41 transit workers have died and more than 6,000 more have fallen sick or self-quarantined.
FRANTIC SEARCH: Maria Correa was rushed to the hospital with coronavirus symptoms. Then no one could find her.
Their grandmother left by ambulance. They couldn’t find her for a week.
| Maria Correa in an undated photo.|
Credit...via Julian Escobar
The emergency medical technicians who rushed into Maria Correa’s room found a pulse. They told the family in Queens that they were taking her to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, one of many health care facilities in New York City overwhelmed by the coronavirus outbreak.
But when her family called the hospital the next day to check on her condition, they were told she was not there.
For a week, family members called the fire department, other hospital offices and the emergency medical service that had picked her up, near death, from her home in Woodhaven on the last Monday in March.
But Ms. Correa, 73, was nowhere to be found.
“I believe she passed away,” said Janeth Solis, a member of Ms. Correa’s family who led the increasingly frantic search to find her. “But where?”
On Monday, there was a breakthrough. An unidentified woman who had died on March 30 was in the hospital morgue, a hospital worker told her son by phone.
The paramedics, overwhelmed by a high volume of calls, had listed her son’s name, Julian Escobar, on the patient intake form instead of hers. Mr. Escobar identified his mother’s body by a photograph the next day at the hospital.
“I’m glad my mom can now rest in peace,” Mr. Escobar said in a statement released by his stepdaughter.
"New York City officials say a sudden upsurge in at-home deaths is likely due to COVID-19 and they are planning to add many of them to the official death toll even without confirmation by a laboratory".