Last week, a study by Harvard University on death in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria numbered an estimated 4645, which is much, much higher that the official death toll of 64:

And this 4645 number is quickly becoming gospel:

But, surprise! It’s wrong. Puerto Rico released actual data on Friday which shows the actual deaths on the island. It’s still higher than 64, but the number are in line with what the media has already been reporting:

There’s some argument if Puerto Rico intentionally withheld data from the Harvard researchers:

Puerto Rico’s governor said on Thursday that he was only now hearing that the agency that collected the information on deaths was not releasing the actual data:

But even before the actual numbers were released, people were starting to question the Harvard study’s accuracy. From the Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog, for example:

In effect, the researchers took one number – 15 deaths identified from a survey of 3,299 households – and extrapolated that to come up with 4,645 deaths across the island. That number came with a very large caveat, clearly identified in the report, but few news media accounts bothered to explain the nuances.

That’s … not a good way to count deaths:

Also from the Fact Checker, the media’s numbers are pretty close to the actual numbers just released:

The New York Times calculated 1,052 deaths through October.
The Center for Investigative Reporting calculated 985 through October.
University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez professors calculated 822, with a 95 percent confidence range that the total was somewhere between 605 and 1,039.
University of Pennsylvania professors calculated excess deaths of about 500 in September, or a total of 1,085 if the same pattern held in October. That estimate was based on six weeks of mortality records.
A Latino USA analysis, using updated data from Puerto Rico’s Department of Health, calculated 1,194 excess deaths in September and October.

Maybe instead of asking why the media isn’t covering a flawed study the media should ask why they’ve been ignoring the island for months now?

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