On August 28, 2018, the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health published an
independent analysis commissioned by the Governor of Puerto Rico showing that Hurricane Maria killed an estimated 2,975 people in Puerto Rico from September 2017 through February 2018. Notably, the study found those in low-income areas and elderly men were
at the greatest risk of dying. This comes mere weeks after the government of Puerto Rico finally
acknowledged the official death toll of 64, upon which it relied for months, was a gross undercount, and that the true number was likely to be in the thousands. Though we may never know the exact number of all lives lost during and as a result of Hurricane
Maria, the fact that numerous independent studies (e.g., by the
New York Times and
Harvard University) show the true number is likely to be in the thousands underscores the need for nationwide best practices guidance for quantifying mortality post-natural disaster. More importantly, it shows how badly transparency and oversight are needed
when it comes to post-disaster death counts.