An increase in the number of Houston-area residents dying at home suggests more people may be affected by the coronavirus that previously known, a new report by NBC News and ProPublica reveals.
The two news organizations analyzed Houston Fire Department data and found that in June, the number of times paramedics responded to a home where someone died of a heart attack had jumped about 50%.
“What our reporting showed is that across Houston there’s been a big jump in the number of people who called 911 for a medical emergency, and by the time paramedics reached them they’ve already died,” NBC News reporter Mike Hixenbaugh told Texas Standard on Friday.
Last year, HFD paramedics responded to about 200 calls a month where someone had suffered a cardiac arrest. In June that number rose to 300 calls a month.
“That’s the highest it’s been in the past three years at least,” Hixenbaugh said.
Autopsies on a small fraction of those people revealed they had COVID-19.
“This same phenomenon happened in New York, it happened in Detroit, it happened in Boston as coronavirus cases surged there,” Hixenbaugh said. “And to be clear, there’s no evidence that all of these cases or a majority of them are the result of coronavirus. What those other cities showed was that many people who had coronavirus did not realize they had it.”
And by the time they called for help, it was too late.
Hixenbaugh added that many of the people who died at home in Houston were Black or Latinx, and many didn’t have health insurance.
“Coronavirus has repeatedly unmasked, or put a spotlight, on already existing inequities in our society,” Hixenbaugh said. “And I think this is no different.”