The CDC’s Major Revision to COVID Death Data
The agency is still not answering questions about the role comorbidities played in pandemic deaths.
The coronavirus pandemic has claimed nearly one million American lives. How many of those deaths were people who died with COVID rather than because of COVID? That’s not just a hair-splitting political gotcha question; the incomplete and flawed answer has had far-reaching implications for public policy over the last two years.
Mark Alexander noted back in January that Anthony Fauci raised the issue of those dying with COVID, not necessarily because of it.
Fauci raised this specter as it related to deaths in children. “If you look at the children who are hospitalized, many of them are hospitalized with COVID as opposed to because of COVID,” Fauci explained back in December. “And what we mean by that — if a child goes in the hospital, they automatically get tested for COVID. And they get counted as a COVID-hospitalized individual. When in fact, they may go in for a broken leg or appendicitis or something like that. So it’s over-counting the number of children who are, quote, ‘hospitalized with COVID,’ as opposed to because of COVID.”
Fox News host Bret Baier noticed, and asked CDC Director Rachel Walensky about it, who replied: “Those data will be forthcoming.” But then she also went on to essentially confirm the underlying reason for the question: “The overwhelming number of deaths, over 75%, occurred in people who had at least four comorbidities. So really these are people who were unwell to begin with.”
Walensky has yet to be “forthcoming” with data specifically related to those dying with COVID, not necessarily because of it.
But the CDC data did quietly make a major change to its COVID data tracker, explaining on the site: “Data on deaths were adjusted after resolving a coding logic error. This resulted in decreased death counts across all demographic categories.” Reuters further explains that the CDC’s “algorithm was accidentally counting deaths that were not COVID-19-related.”
Read that again.
Across just 26 states, the new CDC tally decreased by 72,277, including a reduction in pediatric deaths by 416, or 24%. On children, by the way, Reuters tells us they “accounted for about 19% of all COVID-19 cases, but less than 0.26% of cases resulted in death.”
Again, this major revision is all because the CDC had previously been counting deaths as COVID that weren’t related at all. We all remember the stories of gunshot victims, car accident fatalities, and the like being counted as coronavirus deaths. What will happen to the data if the CDC ever starts accurately accounting for the “with” or “because of” question?
For much of the last two years, media outlets have run daily trackers of COVID deaths. Politicians locked down nearly everyone. Kids were kept out of schools and masked when allowed back in. We’ve treated the young and healthy with the same protocols and restrictions as the sick and vulnerable. Our economy and our mental health suffered immensely for it, and this all happened in large part because the CDC was not producing accurate information. Or trustworthy recommendations, for that matter.
On the mask question, we also learned last week that a major National Institutes of Health-funded study supposedly proving that mask mandates in schools were effective in reducing cases was seriously flawed, partly because of … drumroll please … CDC direction.
The Washington Examiner’s Timothy Carney outlines four big problems with the NIH study, but our purpose here is to shine a light on the CDC, and that accounts for one of those problems. Specifically, counting in-school infections for the mask study was made essentially meaningless because the CDC excluded masked students from contact tracing. That exclusion assumes masks work, and then it doesn’t allow data collection that might prove otherwise.
Ultimately, the CDC’s data collection calls to mind the old maxim “garbage in, garbage out.” If the data is flawed, the recommendations flowing from that data are going to be flawed. This pandemic was deadly and millions of Americans lost loved ones to it. An unfortunate side effect was the damage done by bad and sometimes highly politicized CDC recommendations that then became mandates and diktats from government officials. The people charged with mitigating a pandemic instead worsened that pandemic, losing trust and credibility along the way. That too is lamentable.
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