Detroit Residents Found “Dead on Scene” Doubles During COVID-19

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Detroit paramedics responded to about 600 cases of residents found “dead on scene” during March and April. The increase of deaths may point to an undercount of COVID-19’s toll on Detroit.

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The number of individuals found “dead on scene” by Detroit Emergency Medical Services has more than doubled during the COVID-19 outbreak, according to city officials.

The preliminary numbers show paramedics responded to approximately 600 cases during March and April, compared to roughly 260 in the same months last year.

City officials provided WDET with a graph of Detroit's "dead on scene" cases by year.Courtesy of City of Detroit
Courtesy of City of Detroit

City officials provided WDET with a graph of Detroit’s “dead on scene” cases by year.

The increased number of deaths corresponds with a surge in Detroit’s COVID-19 cases. As of publication, 9,385 cases of the disease have been reported by the Detroit Health Department, and 1,088 city residents have died. City officials say the rise of people found “dead on scene” may point to an undercount and that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is larger than what was previously understood.

There is a good likelihood that a number of them were COVID-19 related,” said Mayor Mike Duggan during a press conference in May. “And I think a good number of them were probably people who had chronic underlying conditions who avoided the doctors or the hospitals because they were fearful of COVID-19.”

Duggan commented that the city’s health department will analyze the makeup of those deaths in the coming months. Autopsy reports which would list an official cause of death for Detroit residents are investigated by the Wayne County Medical Examiner. According to its website, the office processes about 3,000 cases annually.

A spokesperson for the City of Detroit says the provided statistics on individuals found “dead on scene” refers to cases where a probable homicide can be ruled out. Michigan, along with Massachusetts and Washington, has seen an increase of at-home deaths during the country’s COVID-19 outbreak, according to ProPublica.

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Eli Newman, Reporter/Producer

Eli Newman is a Reporter/Producer for 101.9 WDET, covering breaking news, politics and community affairs. His favorite Motown track is “It’s The Same Old Song” by the Four Tops.

eli.newman@wdet.org Follow @other_eli

This post is a part of Coronavirus in Michigan.

101.9 WDET, Detroit’s NPR Station, is committed to providing accurate, up-to-date information on coronavirus, and it's related illness COVID-19, in Michigan. 

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