The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently published a weekly report regarding COVID-19 that has created a media stir over its meaning. The controversy was amplified by President Donald Trump’s retweet of another user’s summary that was later removed by Twitter for violating its community standards regarding COVID-19 reporting.
The CDC’s weekly report, dated August 26, compiles statistics taken from death certificates of any American whose cause of death listed COVID-19 as at least one of the contributing factors. Those other factors, called comorbidities, could include medical issues such as a heart, respiratory or circulatory condition that contributed to the patient’s death.
The CDC’s specific finding that caused a Twitter kerfuffle was this: “For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned. For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death.”
Twitter took down a tweet from a user named “Mel Q” which said, according to reports, that “CDC had quietly updated the Covid number” to show that a small fraction of deaths – 6% – were “actually” caused by the coronavirus, while the remaining 94% of deaths were from “other serious diseases.”
The tweet was replaced by a message from Twitter saying that “This Tweet is no longer available because it violated the Twitter Rules.”
The deleted tweet may not have received any attention at all were it not for the president’s re-tweet of it. That’s when CNN, CBS and other outlets mentioned that the tweet was somehow linked to the so-called QAnon conspiracy, which is a loose association of beliefs traveling around social media about the “deep state” and child-trafficking rings, among other things. QAnon made the news recently when the president was asked about it, and he responded that while he did not know anything about specifics, “I’ve heard these are people that love our country. So I don’t know really anything about it other than they do supposedly like me.”
The CDC’s report confirms what we’ve been hearing for months, that underlying medical conditions plus advanced age have a marked impact on the COVID mortality rate. That should hardly be news to anyone who has been paying attention.
However, the fact that in only 6% of cases COVID is the only apparent cause of death should be a source of good news to those folks already enjoying good health. And it underscores the emphasis that should be placed on protecting the vulnerable, whether in nursing homes or elsewhere, with underlying medical conditions that put them at risk.
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