Author: Sara Habibipour
As the United States suffers from 6.34 million reported COVID cases and 190 thousand COVID deaths (as of September 8, 2020), the spread of medical misinformation continues its rampage with the aid of politicians trying to justify their positions with false data and the human craving for simpler explanations. We recently posted an article with some of the most common COVID myths and why they are so dangerous, so if you’re interested, go check out this article.
But, as we live through a pandemic, the misinformation never ceases to exist!
Shared thousands of times on Facebook, recent posts claim that CDC “quietly updated” its COVID-19 data “to admit that only 6% of all the 190,000 (U.S.) deaths recorded actually died from (COVID-19).” According to the posts, the CDC stated that the other 94% of people died from other causes, and that only around 10,000 people have died from COVID-19. This claim is false.
I would link the Facebook posts here, but most of them have actually been deleted by Facebook. So, thanks Facebook. But, the damage is still done. Once people hear a rumor, you simply can’t contain it, especially if people with large social media followings (such as President Trump) re-share this information.
Explaining what the CDC actually means
The claim that the CDC “admitted that only 6% of… (COVID-19-related) deaths recorded actually died from COVID” is false, because the remaining 94% of cases were instances of comorbidity. Comorbidity is the existence of two or more conditions or illnesses in a patient.
What people are misunderstanding is that this comorbidity does not exclude COVID-19, but combines it with other illnesses, often triggered by the new coronavirus itself. Throughout this pandemic we have also seen how people with chronic diseases have been more likely to get seriously ill and die from COVID-19. In these cases, the death certificate is not just going to say COVID-19, but it’s going to mention any other diseases they may have as well.
In an interview with Reuters, Dr. Marc Larsen, an emergency medicine physician who serves as Incident Command Operations Chair for COVID-19 at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Kansas said that when filling out death certificates, physicians will typically use a standard format and list the primary cause of death as well as other contributing factors.
As an analogy, he gave the example of someone dying of a gunshot wound. Their death certificate might list gunshot wound, along with hemorrhagic shock and liver laceration, as causes of death, with homelessness (as this living condition associated with more exposure to potential violence), as a contributing factor. Similarly, for someone who died of COVID-19, the death certificate might read COVID-19, as well as pneumonia and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) as causes of death, with diabetes and hypertension as contributing factors.
Dr. Larsen said that in both cases, “without those two triggers,” a gunshot wound and COVID-19, “the death would not have occurred. Nothing that appears after those primary diagnoses would have transpired had it not been for the primary event. In these examples, the patients did not die directly from being homeless or being diabetic with hypertension, however, they were contributing factors.”
As a member Gen Z, I will admit that short videos are more helpful in solidifying ideas than words sometimes. So, if you’re interested, here’s a really awesome TikTok by Dr. Noc (PhD scientist and immunologist)!
By reading this article, you’re already helping stop the spread of medical misinformation. If you want to learn about what else you can do, click here.