The claim — shared on social media by President Trump — is a misinterpretation of how COVID-19 deaths are categorized, said the CDC and Fauci

By Julie Mazziotta
September 03, 2020 12:31 PM
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The Centers for Disease Control and Dr. Anthony Fauci debunked an online conspiracy theory —Tweeted by President Donald Trump — claiming that the number of U.S. COVID-19 deaths has been exaggerated.

The theory, shared on social media accounts and by followers of the baseless conspiracy group QAnon, was a misinterpretation of how COVID-19 deaths are categorized, said the federal health agency and Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a top White House coronavirus advisor.

The conspiracy theory, which Twitter removed for misinformation, said that the CDC had “quietly updated the COVID number to admit that only 6 percent [of people] actually died from COVID,” and that the other deaths were in people who “had 2-3 other serious illnesses,” the Washington Post reported.

In a statement, CDC’s chief of mortality statistics Bob Anderson explained that everyone listed as a COVID-19 death died from the virus, even if they had preexisting conditions.

Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty

“In 94 percent of deaths with COVID-19, other conditions are listed in addition to COVID-19. These causes may include chronic conditions like diabetes or hypertension,” Anderson said, according to CNN. “In 6 percent of the death certificates that list COVID-19, only one cause or condition is listed.”

“The underlying cause of death is the condition that began the chain of events that ultimately led to the person's death. In 92 percent of all deaths that mention COVID-19, COVID-19 is listed as the underlying cause of death.”

Fauci also discredited the theory and explained that even if people had preexisting conditions before contracting COVID-19, their death was still due to the virus.

“If you look at the people who died of COVID disease, the point that the CDC was trying to make was that a certain percentage of them had nothing else but just COVID,” Fauci said on Good Morning America. “That does not mean that someone who has hypertension or diabetes who dies of COVID didn’t die of COVID-19. They did.”

“The numbers that you’ve been hearing, the 180,000-plus deaths, are real deaths from COVID-19,” he said. “Let there not be any confusion about that. It’s not 9,000 deaths from COVID-19. It’s 180,000-plus deaths.”

Protestors hold up signs saying "Trump Failed 180,000+ Died" after the President's RNC acceptance speech
| Credit: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty

Anderson said that the CDC lists out deaths that had preexisting conditions because those people are more likely to have a severe case of the disease and die from COVID-19.

The CDC reports that as of Aug. 29, 171,787 Americans have died from COVID-19. The health agency is also counting all deaths due to pneumonia, influenza and COVID-19 since Feb. 1, as deaths listed as pneumonia and influenza may have been undiagnosed COVID-19 cases. Including those deaths, 277,167 Americans have died.

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