Is COVID-19 death rate fake news?
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April 8, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – As one reads the following commentary, one should keep a few quotes in mind. First, a quote from Carl Heneghan, an epidemiologist and director of the Center for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford:
We know, during an epidemic, people will call every death as though it’s related to Covid-19. But that is not the case…Always, when people look back at the case notes and assign causation, they realise they will have overestimated the case fatality in relation to the disease.
Next, from Dr. Deborah Birx, an authoritative source in the U.S. − after explaining that the approach to reporting Covid-19 deaths (mortality) in the U.S. is “very liberal”, Dr. Birx notes that “if someone dies with Covid-19, we are counting that as a Covid-19 death.” (2:49:18 and following, emphasis added)
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It was recently suggested that the draconian measures to force people into their homes, force millions into unemployment, poverty, and other serious problems, and cancel the public celebration of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass may be based not on scientific evidence but on, at minimum, false and misleading numbers. It was proposed that an unclear definition of “Covid-19 death” is leading to falsely reported “Covid-19 death rates” − which in turn make millions of people wrongly think that Covid-19 is “killing people” or the cause of death when that is not true.
It was also suggested that a recent guidance to death-certificate certifiers (most often physicians) from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stating that “the rules for coding and selection of the underlying cause of death are expected to result in Covid-19 being the underlying cause more often than not” would lead to an inflated Covid-19 death rate.
The possibility that the definition of “Covid-19 death” being used by the CDC, and by extension all other sources including the mainstream media, does not solely refer to deaths from or caused by “Covid-19” was considered. It was posited, based on a published guidance from the CDC that the definition of “Covid-19 death” includes assumed and presumed cases of deceased persons that did not even test positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid-19. This possibility has since been discovered to be accurate. The CDC provides an explanation of their definition or inclusion criteria for a “Covid-19 death”:
Coronavirus disease deaths are identified using the ICD–10 code U07.1. Deaths are coded to U07.1 when coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 are reported as a cause that contributed to death on the death certificate. These can include laboratory confirmed cases, as well as cases without laboratory confirmation. If the certifier suspects COVID-19 or determines it was likely (e.g., the circumstances were compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty), they can report COVID-19 as “probable” or “presumed” on the death certificate. [Emphasis added]
Furthermore, the CDC’s apparently official tally of “Covid-19 death” data (which is much lower than non-official numbers) explains that
[d]eath data, once received and processed by National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), are tabulated by the state or jurisdiction in which the death occurred. Death counts are not tabulated by the decedent’s state of residence. COVID-19 deaths may also be classified or defined differently in various reporting and surveillance systems. Death counts in this report include laboratory confirmed COVID-19 deaths and clinically confirmed COVID-19 deaths. This includes deaths where COVID-19 is listed as a “presumed” or “probable” cause. Some local and state health departments only report laboratory-confirmed COVID deaths. [Emphasis added]
One can ignore the technical coding numbers; the major observation to remember is that an official “Covid-19 death” reported by the CDC can include deceased persons that were not even tested or did not test positive for SARS-CoV-2. Additionally, it may be merely suspected, presumed, or assumed that “Covid-19” contributed to death for a death to be officially tallied as a “Covid-19 death.” Several important points were already made regarding such a definition of “Covid-19 death”; more will be made in a moment.
First, though, the CDC states that “[s]ome local and state health departments only report laboratory-confirmed COVID deaths” and that “COVID-19 deaths may also be classified or defined differently in various reporting and surveillance systems.” It is not entirely clear what the statement means. But, in regards to different states reporting methods, at least one state reports a “laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 death” merely as a person died and also had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. This means that a person’s death may clearly be due to non-Covid-19 related illness but if they test positive for the virus, they are included in the “Covid-19 death” tally. From a recent article:
The Florida Department of Health declined to answer questions about its methodology or process for recording coronavirus deaths, other than to issue a statement saying the department’s list includes every person known to have died and tested positive.
“When the state reports COVID-19 related deaths, this does not necessarily mean COVID-19 was the cause of death,” the statement read. “When the state reports a death, it means the individual tested positive for COVID-19.”
A technical specification is apparently overlooked in the statement. “Testing” is done for SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid-19. The Covid-19 disease requires a diagnosis. Either way, though, Florida, a state with a large elderly population, apparently defines “COVID-19 related death” merely as “death with SARS-CoV-2”, not “death from or caused by Covid-19.” Such an approach will clearly lead to inflated and misleading “Covid-19 death” tallies and may cause quite a scare to those following mainstream media reports which make one wrongly think that Covid-19 is “killing” more people than honest and straightforward “Covid-19 death” statistics would portray.
The CDC also notes the following in regards to their calculating of mortality statistics or death tallies:
Mortality statistics are compiled in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) regulations specifying that WHO member nations classify and code causes of death with the current revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD). ICD provides the basic guidance used in virtually all countries to code and classify causes of death.
The ICD 10 coding, which is propagated by the World Health Organization, is used in many countries and thus the “COVID-19 deaths” and “death rates” throughout the world may be tallied in a somewhat falsified, misleading, and inflated manner. It is noteworthy that apparently Italy, Great Britain, China, and Canada all use the World Health Organization’s ICD 10 coding of deaths for death certificates.
A recently retired Professor of Pathology in the United Kingdom commented on the serious problem of misleading “Covid-19 death” statistics. He notes that any person in the UK who dies after testing positive for Covid-19 will have to be recorded, even if they die from other causes:
In the current climate, anyone with a positive test for Covid-19 will certainly be known to clinical staff looking after them: if any of these patients dies, staff will have to record the Covid-19 designation on the death certificate — contrary to usual practice for most infections of this kind. There is a big difference between Covid-19 causing death, and Covid-19 being found in someone who died of other causes. Making Covid-19 notifiable might give the appearance of it causing increasing numbers of deaths, whether this is true or not. It might appear far more of a killer than flu, simply because of the way deaths are recorded. [Emphasis added]
Notably, too, the author cites the fact that “[m]ost of the UK testing has been in hospitals, where there is a high concentration of patients susceptible to the effects of any infection.” One major problem with including all deceased people who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in Covid-19 death statistics is that a person can be infected with more than one virus at the same time. Differential diagnosis and testing would be needed to accurately determine if SARS-CoV-2 or, say, influenza, was the cause of death. As one peer-reviewed article notes, “[s]tudies have shown that simultaneous infection of the respiratory tract with at least two viruses is common in hospitalized patients” and
A number of respiratory viruses have been found to be capable of participating in simultaneous infections including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), human rhinovirus (hRV), human enterovirus (hEV), influenza A virus (IAV), influenza B virus (IBV), human metapneumovirus (hMPV), coronavirus (CoV), parainfluenza virus (PIV), adenovirus (AdV), and human bocavirus (hBoV).
One should also note the scientific fact that
Some infectious agents [including viruses] are easily transmitted (that is, they are very contagious), but they are not very likely to cause disease (that is, they are not very virulent).
Additionally, one point to remember is that 160,000 or more Americans die every year from chronic lower respiratory diseases (like asthma, COPD, etc.). Such persons will likely be hospitalized towards the end of their lives and hospitals are places where pathogens, including contagious viruses, may be easily contracted.
Combine the aforementioned scientific statements: there are viruses that spread very easily but are not very likely to cause disease (and therefore not likely to cause death), simultaneous infection with more than one virus is common in hospitalized patients, and 160,000 or more Americans die every year from chronic lower respiratory diseases (rather than from Covid-19). One should be able to see the problem with defining “Covid-19 death” as anyone who dies after testing positive for SARS-CoV-2. Such a definition is misleading at best. As time goes on, though, the CDC’s and mainstreaming media’s lack of informing the general public of the real meaning of the “Covid-19 death” tally becomes a grave moral evil in opposition to the 8th Commandment.
Finally, it is known that in most cases − or “more often than not” − SARS-CoV-2 does not cause symptoms or causes only mild symptoms similar to influenza; and 98% of people who have had Covid-19 recover and do not die. If that is the case, then it seems that the CDC should have guided physicians to be expected to report “more often than not” that Covid-19 is not the cause of or contributing factor to death on a death certificate. Instead, though, the CDC guided physicians that “the rules for coding and selection of the underlying cause of death are expected to result in Covid-19 being the underlying cause more often than not”.
One has to wonder if that would be fraud. Death certificates are legal documents and deliberately falsifying such a document may be conspiring to defraud − particularly if doing so in thousands of instances results in political advantage for political allies (by spurring vote-by-mail laws or being able to blame wrongly inflated death numbers on a political opponent) or monetary gain (by spurring increased funding allocations). Those who have studied opponents to the Catholic Church should know that religious freedom and pro-life efforts could easily be suppressed under the guise of draconian “public health” or “public safety” laws.
Either way, it is clear that extreme decisions with harmful consequences are being based on inflated and unscientific Covid-19 death rates.
Robert L. Kinney III, Pharm.D., M.A. holds a Doctor of Pharmacy from Purdue University and an M.A. in Philosophy with a concentration in bioethics from Franciscan University of Steubenville. He has been published in The Linacre Quarterly, National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, Crisismagazine.com, and Homiletic and Pastoral Review.