Omar Rodriguez moves the body of a coronavirus patient into the Gerard Neufeld funeral home in Queens, New York.
Newly introduced New York regulations will ramp up the testing of corpses for COVID-19 and the flu.
The new rules require that bodies of those who died with a suspected respiratory illness be tested for both within 48 hours of death.
The regulations, which went into effect on September 1, are an attempt to ensure accurate death data in the coming months.
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New York is ramping up its COVID-19 and flu testing on dead bodies in an effort to collect more accurate data about both illnesses.
New regulations that went into effect September 1 require that the corpses of people who died at a hospital or nursing home with a suspected respiratory illness — but hadn’t been diagnosed within the 14 days prior — be tested for the flu and the coronavirus within 48 hours of death.
Medical examiners and funeral home directors will also be responsible for testing the bodies of people who died outside of the hospital or extended care setting, according to the regulations.
“While the human toll this virus has taken on New Yorkers is immeasurable, these regulations will ensure we have the most accurate death data possible as we continue to manage COVID-19 while preparing for flu season,” Department of Health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in New York, 439,501 people have tested positive and nearly 33,000 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Within the last month, though, less than 1% of people who were tested for the virus have gotten positive results, implying a major improvement since the early months of the pandemic.
Experts hope that collecting increased heath data post-mortem will help with tracking the spread of both the novel coronavirus and the common flu, and ensure that those who had close contact with victims be notified about their need to quarantine, if necessary.
Additionally, having these increased regulations in place now will encourage New York counties to increase their testing abilities ahead of the colder season, when respiratory illnesses tend to thrive, Dr. Mary Fowkes, a clinical pathologist at Mount Sinai Hospital, told The New York Times.
“Good quality health data helps inform good quality public health decisions, and this information will strengthen our contact tracing efforts and slow the spread of this virus,” Zucker said.
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