CDC Findings Misinterpreted by Some Downplaying Pandemic

by Seth Kauffman ‘21

In a recent report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that 6 percent of the total coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) deaths were caused only by the virus itself, and the remaining 94 percent were patients with other conditions or diseases.  This statement, posted to the organization’s website on August 26 as part of its weekly coronavirus update, has generated a slew of false claims and misunderstandings about what the data actually mean.

The release states that in those 6 percent of deaths, Covid-19 was the only cause mentioned.  “For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to Covid-19, on average, there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death,” the report reads.  The most prevalent comorbidities among these deaths were: influenza, pneumonia, respiratory failure, hypertensive disease, and diabetes.

The CDC defines a comorbidity as when “more than one disease or condition is present in the same person at the same time.”  Once someone contracts Covid-19, the virus exacerbates their other conditions.  According to Justin Lessler, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, a person’s comorbidities will almost certainly increase their risk of dying.  “Really almost any disease you can name, your risks for death increase if you have other diseases or other conditions that make you sick,” he stated in an interview with the university.  

The CDC’s new comorbidities data has prompted a surge of false claims.  One such claim, from the conspiracy group QAnon and later retweeted by President Trump, states: “This week the CDC quietly updated the Covid number to admit that only 6 percent of all the 153,504 deaths recorded actually died from Covid.  That’s 9,210 deaths.  The other 94 percent had 2-3 other serious illnesses & the overwhelming majority were of very advanced age.”  Twitter later removed the tweet for containing false information.

Medical professionals, like Dr. Zubin Damania, an internal medicine doctor and host of the medical podcast, “The ZDOGG M.D. Show,” clarify that people with comorbidities that contract Covid-19 are not dying with the virus, they are dying of it.  Covid-19 tends to affect people who have other diseases because those diseases make them more vulnerable to the virus.  If a person’s cause of death is listed as a respiratory failure or cardiac arrest, and they also had Covid, it was really Covid that caused them to die.

In fact, at the time when the CDC released these findings, almost all of the 160,000 deaths from Covid-19 could be attributed to Covid-19.  According to Jeff Lancashire, spokesmen for the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, “The underlying cause of death is the condition that began the chain of events that ultimately led to the person’s death . . . in 92% of all deaths that mention COVID-19, COVID-19 is listed as the underlying cause of death,” he told PolitiFact.

The CDC’s findings have been touted by some as proof that the coronavirus pandemic is not as serious as health officials are making it out to be.  At the forefront of the “Plandemic” movement is the belief that the pandemic is “an overblown threat engineered by Democrats to rig the 2020 presidential election against Trump,” as stated by conservative commentator Candace Owens.  Furthermore, they contend that the CDC “quietly” updated its website, when in reality, nationwide data on Covid-19 is refreshed weekly.

As of September 2, males, which make up about 49 percent of the population, accounted for over 54 percent of all deaths involving Covid-19, according to the CDC website.  The demographic most at risk for Covid-19, however, is seniors.  In deaths involving Covid-19 and pneumonia, 78 percent were people over the age of 65.  Similarly, in deaths involving either Covid-19, pneumonia, or influenza, seniors accounted for 79 percent of deaths.

In the year 2020, 200,000 more people have already died in the U.S. than in a typical year, and it is likely that the death totals for Covid-19 are actually higher than what is being reported.  Some people reject the idea that Covid-19 is responsible for the excess mortality rate in the U.S., but the new data has led many people to believe that if Covid-19 isn’t pushing the numbers up, what is?