Here it is, the beginning of the 2018 hurricane season, and we still haven’t made a reckoning of the real damage that last year’s Hurricane Maria inflicted on Puerto Rico.
Thanks, however, to a Harvard University study ... we’re getting closer to one. Researchers determined that in the three months after Maria hit on Sept. 20, there were 4,645 “excess deaths.” That’s 70 times greater than the official, but absurdly low, death count of 64 reported by the island’s Department of Public Safety on Dec. 29.
The deaths were mainly from a lack of medical care in the weeks after the storm — what happens when you have no electricity, when roads are blocked, when hospitals are closed or overcrowded. This is a highly credible study. The researchers surveyed 3,299 randomly selected households on the island, asking whether people knew of deaths in their barrio, or neighborhood. They compared the results to official death statistics from 2016. It’s a well-accepted technique, and they made their investigative methods and findings public in the esteemed New England Journal of Medicine other researchers can check their work with their own investigations.