Aug 30, 2020 - Health

CDC report on COVID deaths underlines virus' danger

 Continental Funeral Home attendants move a casket

Continental Funeral Home in Los Angeles has been struggling to keep up with the demands of rising death rates during the pandemic. Photo: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A new Centers for Disease Control report shows 94% of people who died from COVID-19 in the U.S. had contributing health conditions.

Yes, but: Australian epidemiologist Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz noted in a blog post on Monday that the CDC finds COVID-19 was the underlying cause of 95% of all deaths related to the virus. Only in 5% of deaths has it been listed as a contributing cause.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Sam Baker: This report doesn't mean that COVID isn't as bad as we thought. It's clear from the CDC's statistics on excess deaths that more people are dying than usual, because of COVID. The fact that common pre-existing medical conditions often coincide with deadly coronavirus infections is part of what makes it scary — not a reason to write it off.

Of note: Twitter removed a post earlier Sunday retweeted by President Trump for violating its rules with a false interpretation of the CDC's novel coronavirus data.

  • The post incorrectly claimed the CDC had "quietly" updated its data "to admit that only 6%" of those listed in the U.S. coronavirus death toll "actually died from COVID" and that "the other 94% had 2-3 other serious illnesses," CNN notes.
  • The post by a supporter of a baseless conspiracy theory has since been deleted.

Reality check: While the cause of death listed as solely from the coronavirus occurred in 6% of cases in the U.S. from Feb. 1 to Aug. 22, this doesn't mean that the virus was not a contributing factor or, indeed, the leading cause in the other 94%. The U.S. virus death toll would be much lower if this were the case.

  • "People can live with obesity, diabetes or heart disease for years but then get infected with COVID-19 and die quickly," CNN points out.

For the record: For deaths with conditions or causes as well as COVID-19, on average, there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death, according to the CDC.

  • The CDC reports the leading underlying medical conditions related to coronavirus deaths were:
  • Influenza and pneumonia.
  • Respiratory failure.
  • Hypertensive disease.
  • Diabetes.
  • Vascular and unspecified dementia.
  • Cardiac arrest.
  • Heart failure.
  • Renal failure.
  • Intentional and unintentional injury, poisoning and other adverse events.
  • Other medical conditions.

By the numbers: In the U.S., more than 183,000 deaths have been attributed to the coronavirus as of Sunday night, per Johns Hopkins data.

  • Almost 6 million have tested positive and over 2.2 million have recovered.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with more details on the false report on the CDC's data, comment from Meyerowitz-Katz and further context.

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