ITHACA, N.Y. — Let’s put this in my editor’s words: “Is this where we are now? The Ithaca Voice mopping up the New York Times’s mess?”
Short answer: yes.
While the Voice wholly supports data-based journalism (and in fact, we happily do it too), the New York Times managed to commit a fairly egregious screw-up in their latest COVID data piece, which purports that Tompkins County has 24 COVID fatalities and is #1 in the country for “highest average daily growth rate of deaths.”
That’s not a claim that should be made lightly. Folks, if that were the case, we, the Ithaca Times, and Tompkins Weekly would all be banging the drum loud enough to be heard from the Commons to Connecticut Hill. The fact of the matter is, the New York Times is just plain wrong.
“There have not been 24 deaths in Tompkins County, as reported on the table from the Health Department there have been zero deaths of Tompkins County Residents and two deaths of non-county residents,” Tompkins County Communications Director Dominick Recckio told the Voice late Thursday morning.
The New York Times deleted the tweet a little after 11:30 a.m., about 3 hours after the story went up. As of this article’s publication, the story remains, uncorrected, on the Times website.
“We do not know where the Times is getting data for their database, but it appeared to be inaccurately representing the ‘Ithaca, NY area.’ I sent a request for a correction to them this morning and have not heard back yet, though they have taken down the tweet,” added Recckio. “It was great to see so many people responding directly to the Times on Twitter to correct their error, and referencing our local Health Department data.”
We have no local deaths from COVID-19. https://t.co/H5v0rUn2Ju
— Mayor Svante Myrick (@SvanteMyrick) May 7, 2020
We post the latest data from the Tompkins County Health Department daily. There have been two fatalities, reported on April 10th and April 11th, individuals who had been transported up from the New York City area to Cayuga Medical Center for treatment that unfortunately was unable to save them. There are two people in Tompkins County currently hospitalized with COVID, and we hope and pray that they have full recoveries. There have been 133 cases in Tompkins County, and 107 of those have recovered, leaving Tompkins with 26 active cases.
We have the utmost respect for the Times, which counts former Voice intern Nick Bogel-Burroughs among its esteemed reporting staff. We don’t know what went wrong in the Manhattan tower the New York Times calls home. What we do know is that, given the number of folks who do read the New York Times, and the likelihood that this could cause some sort of panic, the record needs to be corrected and stated forcefully.
There is no spike in the deaths or death rate in Ithaca and Tompkins County. Period. While we still need to practice social distancing and take steps to ensure the safety of our residents, Tompkins has “bent its curve.” We hope to come out of this in due course, with our citizens safe and sound and no further loss of life. That is the road we are on, and hopefully will stay on.
Thomas Giery Pudney contributed to this report.