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OP-ED: 4,645 American Citizens Died, And We Shrugged

Susan Bigelow/
Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico a year ago, but since then most of us here on the mainland have dreamed the disaster away. Here’s something to wake us up: instead of the government’s announced death toll of 64, a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine estimated a staggering 4,645 people were killed by the hurricane or its after effects.
Will you remember now?
The study (full text here) used a representative sampling technique to figure out the “excess” death toll, meaning the number of deaths that could be attributed to the disaster of Hurricane Maria. The researchers sampled over 3,000 households, estimated the mortality rate based on those surveys, and then compared it to the mortality rate from same period during the year before the hurricane. Their conclusion:

Our results indicate that the official death count of 64 is a substantial underestimate of the true burden of mortality after Hurricane Maria. Our estimate of 4,645 excess deaths from September 20 through December 31, 2017, is likely to be conservative since subsequent adjustments for survivor bias and household-size distributions increase this estimate to more than 5,000.

A “substantial underestimate” indeed. That figure of 64, compared with the suggested true death toll, is positively Soviet in its brazen untruthfulness. Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan who tried to take President Trump to task over his pitiful response to the crisis, had this…
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