Were the dead bees head down in the cells, with their butts sticking out? That would show starvation.
Lots of Winter losses this year with the drought over the summer and all. Don't know how bad the drought was last year in New York. If it looks like they starved, I would go ahead and use the equipment. Varroa wouldn't survive the death of all of the bees either. Always a risk of reusing equipment of course, for diseases like AFB, EFB, and nosema.