The number of deaths reported to the New York City Chief Medical Examiner’s Office more than doubled amid the coronavirus pandemic — described as “the largest mass fatality incident in modern NYC history” in the mayor’s new management report released Thursday.
The number of deaths reported to OCME skyrocketed from 30,964 in fiscal year 2019 (July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019) to 65,712 in FY 2020 (July 1, 2019 through June 30), “corresponding to the surge in NYC deaths during the pandemic,” the annual report on city services said
The number of cremation applications reviewed by the ME also jumped from 17,148 to 27,863 from the prior year.
The number of remains stored in the morgue also surged from 11,281 to 17,606.
Conversely, the number of autopsies performed actually dropped from 5,399 to 4,884 as most forensic labs were closed and staff reassigned to handle the increase in dead people sent to the morgue — many expired COVID-19 patients sent directly from hospitals and nursing homes.
In the special COVID-19 section of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s management report, the medical examiner’s office was praised for expanding its morgue capacity and setting up make-shift morgues at hospitals and other health facilities across the city to properly handle the surge in dead patients.
“Although the City’s emergency life-saving measures were robust, as outlined above, COVID-19 tragically represents the largest mass fatality incident in modern NYC history,” the report said.
“Drawing from expertise developed post-9/11, the NYC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) led the City’s response to the unprecedented number of deaths by conducting medico-legal investigations as well as serving as the City’s mortuary.
“OCME partnered with NYC Emergency Management (NYCEM) to help 135 NYC hospitals expand and manage their own morgue capacity, creating temporary morgue capacity in healthcare facilities throughout the City. OCME also rapidly established four portable mortuary units in Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn, to ensure dignified and respectful treatment of the deceased,” the report said.
A total of 23,767 confirmed or probable COVID-19 fatalities have occurred in the city, according to the Health Department.
The coronavirus death toll in April surpassed the number of people killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Tom Von Essen, the city’s fire department commissioner during 9/11 who is now the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s regional commissioner, said he never imagined so many New Yorkers would die again on such a massive scale.