New York City’s Reported COVID-19 Hospitalizations and High Hospital Death Tolls

Recent reports discussed the discovery of more false SARS-CoV-2 numbers in multiple cities. The reports bring up the question of COVID-19 statistics from other locations which, as time goes on, appear more questionable and may or may not be true. Specifically, the COVID-19 statistics from New York City require a closer look. As SARS-CoV-2 continues to spread, no other location has observed even close to New York City’s reported overall number of deaths being five or six times more than the normally observed deaths during a month or two span.

Some have discussed the numbers of COVID-19 patients that reportedly died at nursing homes. But there were a huge number of deaths (both “involving” COVID-19 and not involving COVID-19) reported in the New York City hospital inpatient setting not likewise observed in other locations.

Looking at hospitalization statistics sheds light on the topic. First, some general information on hospital occupancy; the COVID-19 pandemonium has included many attempts to scare Americans with hospital data. The fear concerns hospitals filling up and not having enough space. Unmentioned by politicians and public health officials is that hospitals apparently normally try to stay at greater than 85% occupancy rate. This is particularly helpful to know: for hospitals, “an industry accepted benchmark for the volume necessary to break-even” is “an inpatient occupancy rate that is greater than 85%.” (Page 15) That is, hospitals apparently try to stay near full.

Regarding specifically the COVID-19 situation that occurred in New York City, one significant piece of information is what the occupancy rate was at the beginning of the reported SARS-CoV-2 outbreak. How many were already hospitalized when the COVID-19 outbreak reportedly began and how many more could NYC hospitals reasonably have hospitalized thereafter?

New York City reportedly has 23,000 hospital beds, and it is difficult to find information with precise occupancy rate when the outbreak began. Previous years’ data may be useful; the NYC Health + Hospitals reported that, for fiscal year 2018, its eleven acute hospitals averaged 79.7 occupancy rate. Data on other NYC hospitals does not appear to be available but a separate estimate suggested New York City hospitals were at about 75% occupancy rate on March 19, 2020. The estimate is in line with NYC Health + Hospitals average reported occupancy rate for fiscal year 2018. For the sake of this discussion, the occupancy rate of 75% will be used. Out of 23,000 hospital beds, then, approximately 17,250 may have been in use, and approximately 5,750 may have been available on March 19, 2020.

From March 19, 2020 to April 21, 2020, New York City reportedly (see: “Get the data” for exact numbers) had 39,518 specifically COVID-19 hospitalizations. The date of April 21, 2020 is used here because that is the date that Governor Andrew Cuomo said that New York City hospital stress was easing and the extra hospital beds that the U.S.N.S. Comfort Navy hospital ship provided were no longer needed, after arriving on March 30, 2020 and treating only 179 patients. So, NYC hospitals reportedly were not close full sometime around April 21, 2020.

Again, from March 19, 2020 to April 21, 2020, New York City reportedly had 39,518 specifically COVID-19 hospitalizations beginning at a time when approximately 5,750 beds were available. Data on non-COVID-19 hospitalizations is difficult to find, but it is known that New York City hospitals were also treating non-COVID-19 patients. This is deduced from the CDC’s data which reports that between February to July, 14,746 “deaths involving COVID-19” occurred in the NYC hospital inpatient setting, while 25,334 “total deaths” occurred in the NYC hospital inpatient setting. This means that, reportedly, at least 10,000 non-COVID-19 patients were hospitalized (and then died in the inpatient setting) in NYC between February to July.

Now, the CDC reports that the median hospital length for a COVID-19 survivor was 10 to 13 days. Does it seem reasonable for NYC hospitals to have had less than 6,000 hospital beds available on March 19, 2020 and then accommodate 40,000 or more hospitalizations in one month, many which would, according to the CDC, require a stay of 10 to 13 days? And the 40,000 number does not include non-COVID-19 hospitalizations; non-COVID-19 hospitalizations would make the number even higher than 40,000. It is important to remember that the field hospitals and USNS Comfort hospital ship were mostly unused. The NYC hospitalization numbers seem implausible and worth further research.

Of course, some of the NYC COVID-19 hospitalizations (reportedly 1 in 5 COVID-19 hospitalizations) and non-COVID-19 hospitalizations died in the hospital inpatient setting, opening up space for more hospitalizations. Here again a reasonable person might ask some unfortunate but necessary questions.

The CDC’s data shows that between March 21 and April 25, there were a total of 27,523 deaths in NYC (deaths that occurred in any setting). According to the CDC’s data, there were 5,180 deaths in NYC during the comparable time in 2019. This means that NYC reportedly experienced more than 5 times the normal number of total deaths.

But the excess number of deaths which reportedly occurred in the NYC hospital inpatient setting may be even higher than 5 times the normally observed number. The number of deaths which occurred in the hospital inpatient setting from March 21 to April 25 is not specifically provided, but the current data suggest that at least 50% of all deaths (both deaths involving COVID-19 and not involving COVID-19) in NYC occurred in the hospital inpatient setting. If 50% of the deaths in NYC between March 21 and April 25 occurred in the hospital inpatient setting, then a reasonable number of deaths in the NYC hospital inpatient setting during that time frame would be approximately 14,000 deaths. The CDC’s statistics (click “agree” then “send” on the provided link to view data) show there were less than 2,000 deaths in NYC’s hospital inpatient setting in April 2018. This means that total deaths in the NYC hospital inpatient setting from March 21 to April 25, 2020 (approximately one month) may have been more than 7 times more than normal.

Now, nearly everyone merely assumed that the reported excess in NYC deaths was caused by COVID-19. But no other location with reported COVID-19 outbreaks has experienced even close to that significant of an excess - potentially 7 or more times normal in the hospital inpatient setting in 1 month - in deaths. This specific observation might make a reasonable person conclude that either the reported COVID-19 and/or total death statistics for NYC are wrong or something other than COVID-19 may have been causing the deaths of thousands of New Yorkers in the hospital inpatient setting.

Possibly foreseeing others reporting on the incomparable death statistics in New York City hospitals, a local newspaper suggests that “under-resourced” hospitals, including not enough nurses, and other hospital “inequalities” were the reasons for such an excess of reported NYC hospital deaths. That explanation does not suffice, though, because extra hospital resources were provided but went mostly unused. Both the reported high number of hospitalizations and excess deaths in the hospital inpatient setting in New York City are worthy of further research, which should include critical evaluation of every death certificate.

Photo illustration by Monica Showalter with use of Pixabay public domain images.

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