New York City Medical Examiner Doing Limited Coronavirus Testing on Dead


New York City’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner isn’t performing widespread postmortem Covid-19 tests on people who have died at home during the new coronavirus outbreak because of a national shortage of testing supplies, city officials say.

Instead investigators from the office have mainly been determining whether home deaths are related to the virus through interviews with decedents’ families and, if available, medical records that could help inform an opinion, the officials say. If the investigators believe the virus played a role, then the deaths are labeled “Covid-probable,” the officials say.

The office of New York City’s chief medical examiner, Barbara Sampson, is responsible for investigating sudden or unexpected deaths, as well as most deaths at home. Thousands of people have died at home in New York during the coronavirus outbreak.

“We are in the midst of unprecedented circumstances,” said Aja Worthy-Davis, a spokeswoman for the office. “Given the number of deaths and limited supply of testing resources, it is unlikely that every single probable death will be tested postmortem.”

Forensic pathologists and medical researchers say medical examiners that aren’t testing may not always be able to accurately determine which at-home natural deaths—such as heart attacks and strokes—were triggered by Covid-19.

“Home deaths will be undercounted because testing is not available in some jurisdictions, like poor rural jurisdictions where they may not do much of an investigation,” said Dr. Sally Aiken, a Spokane, Wash.-based forensic pathologist and medical examiner, who is also president of the National Association of Medical Examiners. – READ MORE

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