New Jersey Report Finds Coronavirus May Have Killed People Who Never Tested Positive for the Virus

A new report adds to evidence that COVID-19 not only killed directly through infection last year but indirectly through fear that prevented what might have been lifesaving treatment.

The analysis from the New Jersey Hospital Association and its Center for Health Analytics, Research, and Transformation (CHART) found that COVID-19 was listed as the primary cause of death for nearly 16,500 New Jersey residents in 2020. But deaths from other causes were also considerably higher than usual the year the virus emerged in the U.S., a possible sign that thousands more died either because they didn’t know they were infected or were afraid they’d catch the virus if they went to the hospital.

The report was released Thursday as a wave of cases caused by the delta variant threatens to overwhelm hospitals in many parts of the country and as the nation braces for a surge caused by the fast-spreading omicron variant.

“It’s impossible to know whether these excess deaths could have been prevented with timely access to hospital care,” said Sean Hopkins, senior vice president of CHART, in a written release. “But the trends are troubling, and they reinforce a critical message during a public health emergency: Please don’t delay seeking the care you need.”

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SOURCE: The Philadelphia Inquirer, Stacey Burling