Twitter removed a tweet retweeted by President Donald Trump over the weekend that claimed the CDC revised its coronavirus death toll down to only six percent of its previous numbers, claiming that it provided false information.
The tweet was originally posted by Mel Q, a supporter of the controversial Q Anon theory that a powerful group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles is trying to bring Trump down. It said that the CDC had “quietly” updated the official death numbers to “admit that only 6%” of deaths attributed to COVID-19 were actually from the virus.
What the CDC actually said in its revised guidance and numbers is that only six percent of people counted in official coronavirus death tolls did not have other causes of death in addition to COVID-19.
In addition, the CDC said that on average, those whose deaths were attributed to the coronavirus had 2.6 additional causes of death. Some of the common comorbidities were obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory failure.
Most coronavirus deaths had other additional causes
The CDC also said its data was “provisional,” not final and could be subject to change. It advised not comparing data across states.
Many have interpreted the CDC information to mean that the real death toll from coronavirus was more like 9,000, or six percent of the roughly 161,000 deaths that the CDC had counted as having coronavirus as a cause when the guidance was released on August 22.
The potentially false part of the tweet was that those with comorbidities didn’t really die from the coronavirus. According to their death certificates, the coronavirus was a cause of death in all of the cases, there were just multiple causes of death.
What we don’t know is how many of those who have died with the coronavirus as a cause would have died from one of the other causes even without the coronavirus. That’s not something we will probably ever know at this point.
Conservatives twisting CDC data?
It does seem like some conservatives are twisting the CDC information to fit their preconceived notion that coronavirus deaths are vastly inflated. I have seen enough Democrats twist information to fit their agenda that I know when conservatives are doing it, too–and they shouldn’t.
It’s not clear whether Trump was suggesting that there have really only been 9,000 coronavirus deaths. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the Trump retweet, saying he “was highlighting new CDC information that came out that was worth noting,” not trying to downplay the death toll.
I have my private doubts about whether the current death count is accurate after hearing anecdotal stories about people’s loved ones being classified as coronavirus deaths even they were never even tested or didn’t have any of the symptoms at the time of death.
But we need to be careful not to think anecdotal evidence is the same as empirical data if we don’t want to lose credibility when we try to inject reason and truth into the coronavirus narrative.