Let’s demand a recount…of COVID deaths
How deadly is the SARS-COV-2 virus? Part of the equation depends on accurately determining just who has died from COVID-19 infection. It turns out that, thanks to changes the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) made to its rules, along with Congressional incentives, America’s COVID-19 counts are almost certainly inaccurate.
America counts COVID-19 deaths differently from other countries. According to Dr. Deborah Birx, speaking at the start of the pandemic, “if someone dies with COVID-19, we are counting that as a COVID-19 death.”
However, we must acknowledge that there is a difference between dying from COVID-19 and dying with COVID-19. This is a familiar uncertainty for doctors during the winter flu season.
In most states, 40-60% of the people dying of SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, are elderly persons with multiple medical problems who live in nursing homes. A portion of this same cohort dies every year from the seasonal influenza virus. When that happens, did the flu kill them or their cancer, heart failure, strokes, or liver problems? Doctors use their best judgment to fill out the death certificate correctly, but they do not categorize all of them as “flu” deaths.
According to the CDC, only 6% of those who died with the COVID-19 infection had no other pre-existing health conditions. The other 94% had an average of four medical conditions already affecting their health.
This does not mean that only 6% of these deaths resulted from COVID-19. But it also does not mean that 100% of the deaths among people with other medical conditions should be counted as death from COVID-19 either. If we counted each death that tested positive for flu or had symptoms of flu as an “influenza death,” we would also have hundreds of thousands of flu deaths each year.
When it comes to the flu, though, we don’t tally either the 6% or the 100%. The real answer is in the middle. Applying that same logic to COVID-19 means that conservatively 25-50% of the deaths labeled from COVID-19 more likely died with COVID-19.
According to an October study from the bulletin of Science, Public Health Policy, and the Law, on March 24, 2020, the CDC changed the way it tabulated deaths for the previous 17 years, resulting in inflated COVID-19 death numbers. Moreover, the change affected only deaths relating to COVID-19. Even more surprising, the Federal Register does not mention these changes, so it appears the CDC acted without peer review and oversight by either the Office of Management and Budget or Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which would violate federal law.
The same article says that, in August, the estimate for COVID-19 deaths under the new system was 161,392. However, if the same data had been tabulated under the old system, the COVID-19 death count would be only 9,684. The fundamental difference was that, no matter the patient’s ultimate cause of death, the new system mandated that COVID-19 must always be the first cause of death, with the other conditions listed as “contributing factors” – the opposite of the old system.
The CDC also made influenza deaths magically vanish for this flu season. The CDC created a new category of death from pneumonia, influenza, and COVID-19 to lump those causes together. This only created confusion about COVID-19 deaths -- and please, don’t say that masking and distancing reduced influenza deaths while not reducing COVID-19 deaths. Assuredly, some influenza deaths were lumped into the COVID-19 category this season.
In addition to a different way of counting deaths, Congress passed the CARES Act, authorizing more money for hospitals that had patients with a COVID-19 diagnosis. Perhaps done with good intentions, this incentivized financially pushing the COVID-19 diagnosis to the top of the list so that hospitals can pay for the care they give. This too gives more weight to listing a positive COVID test/diagnosis as the cause of death instead of the patient’s other conditions.
In addition to new ways of counting cases and financial incentives for listing cases, some states have been found to have irregularities in their COVID-19 death count. Washington state’s Freedom Foundation investigated COVID-19 deaths in May 2020 and found that 13% of the listed COVID-19 deaths did not mention COVID-19.
A FOIA request revealed that the Washington Department of Health (“DOH”) agreed in private emails that this was true and promised to change. However, when the Freedom Foundation followed up in December, it again found that 340 deaths out of 2,000 (17%) at the time did not mention SARS-COV-2 or only listed SARS-COV-2 as a contributing cause, not the main cause, of death. Once again, the Freedom Foundation challenged Governor Jay Inslee’s DOH, which agreed to remove 200 deaths from the COVID list. The Freedom Foundation concluded that the DOH was not erring; it was attempting to inflate the death count by 10-15%.
In Minnesota in December 2020, lawmakers Mary Farmer and Dr. Scott Jensen conducted a state audit of COVID-19 deaths, eventually sifting through 2,800 death certificates. They found that 800 patients (almost 30%) did not have SARS-COV-2 listed as a cause for death. They have appealed to their state for changes and asked for a national audit of COVID-19 deaths. It is unclear at this point how many states have this problem, but we need a national audit of COVID-19 death reporting.
In sum, due to a very liberal description of a “COVID death,” financial incentives, CDC rule changes and, apparently, outright deception or incompetence from some government agencies, America has inflated the death rate due to SARS-CoV-2. Our mainstream media has also been complicit in trying to maximize fear and panic by failing to investigate and reporting only one side to the story.
Using different rules for COVID-19 deaths versus deaths from other infections makes it hard to compare its mortality rates to those in previous pandemics or deaths from other infectious diseases, such as the flu. It seems clear, though, that the COVID-19 pandemic is not as severe as other pandemics. Dr. Marty Makary, a Johns Hopkins physician, estimated that the COVID-19 infection fatality rate is 0.23% which is close to a bad influenza season.
It’s true that the COVID-19 infection is a real threat to the elderly with other medical conditions (e.g., diabetes, obesity, etc.) and this group must be protected. Still, parts of our government and media seem to have made a concerted effort to make the SARS-COV-2 pandemic appear more deadly than it actually is. While America’s Frontline Doctors, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, and a handful of other groups have been calling attention to these issues, the medical profession has mostly been silent.
If the CDC ceases to be a reliable source for health data, some of our state governments manipulate data, and the major media outlets have no interest in investigating and reporting the truth, how long will the American people go along with this medical tyranny of lockdowns, masking, social distancing, and financial ruin? We know who needs to be protected and we know how to do it. The time is now to let the rest of our population return to normal life.
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