Italy’s death toll from the Wuhan coronavirus could be much higher than previously reported, according to an analysis by the Wall Street Journal published Wednesday.
The health care system in Italy’s Lombardy region has been stretched to the limit during the coronavirus outbreak, with numerous reports of hospital staff being forced to resort to war-time triage procedures. However, in addition to confirmed coronavirus deaths, many people may have died without having been tested for the illness.
“There are many more dead than are officially declared,” Eugenio Fossati, deputy mayor of the town of Coccaglio, told the Journal. “But this is not a j’accuse. People died and they were never tested because time and resources are limited.”
In March, in the town of Coccaglio, 56 people died, just 12 of whom were tested for coronavirus. A nursing home in the town lost 24 residents in March, none of whom were ever tested for the illness. By comparison, 86 of the town’s residents died over the entire year of 2019.
“We know the real number is higher, and we mourn them, knowing full well why they died,” Fossati said. “It’s a hard truth to accept.”
The city of Bergamo saw a similar spike in deaths. In March 2019, 125 people died in the city, while in March 2020 deaths hit 553, of which only 201 were confirmed coronavirus cases. Bergamo mayor Giorgio Gori told the Journal he estimates that one-third of the city’s 120,000 people have been infected.
“We were first, and we weren’t prepared. Any leaders looking at us and not reacting vigorously will have a lot to answer for,” Gori said.
Italy had 110,574 confirmed cases of coronavirus with 13,155 deaths as of Thursday morning, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence indicated that the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. could best be compared to Italy’s outbreak.
“We think Italy may be the most comparable area to the United States at this point,” Pence said in a CNN interview. “Our message yesterday, our message over the next 30 days, is the future is in our hands.”