Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force team, spoke out against the false notion being perpetuated on social media, including by President Donald Trump, that the number of deaths associated with COVID-19 is significantly smaller than what’s being reported.
A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that for a significant number of deaths being counted, COVID-19 and other underlying causes were frequently notated together as having been responsible for cause of death. Indeed, according to the CDC, the average person who has died from coronavirus has had around 2.6 comorbidities listed on their death certificates as well.
“For 6 percent of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned,” that report stated.
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This led to a number of memes and social media posts, mainly from accounts in support of the president, suggesting that only 6 percent of coronavirus-related deaths (about 9,000 in total) were legitimately due to the disease itself, while wrongly asserting that the comorbidities played a larger role than coronavirus in the deaths of those people. Indeed, Trump himself shared one such post, from a QAnon user on Twitter, which was later deleted by the social media site for violating its rules on spreading misinformation about the disease.
Missing from these memes and posts was another important point that the very same CDC report had noted: In spite of the high number of comorbidities listed, 95 percent of the COVID-related death certificates had noted the virus as the main cause of death.
Fauci sought to correct the record while appearing as a guest on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Tuesday morning. While noting that only a small number of deaths recorded “had nothing else but just COVID” listed, the infectious disease expert explained that it does not mean that coronavirus wasn’t the cause of the many COVID deaths in the U.S. so far.
The wording of the report that so many have cited “does not mean that someone who has hypertension or diabetes who dies of COVID didn’t die of COVID-19,” he explained. “They did.”
Fauci added that the number of deaths reported so far — “there are 180,000-plus deaths,” he said — are “real deaths from COVID-19.”
Fauci made certain to reiterate the point: “It’s not 9,000 deaths from Covid-19, it’s 180-plus-thousand deaths,” he said.
A high proportion of Americans have underlying conditions that make them more vulnerable to coronavirus. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 37.6 percent of adults ages 18 and older — nearly 93 million Americans overall — are at “a higher risk of developing serious illness if they become infected with coronavirus” due to being 65 years or older, or having a health condition that puts them at greater risk, or both.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. has identified more than 6 million cases of coronavirus, with nearly 184,000 Americans having died from the disease so far.