Michael Neel, funeral director of of All Veterans Funeral and Cremation, wearing full PPE, looks at the U.S. flag on the casket of George Trefren, a 90-year-old Korean War veteran who died of COVID-19 in a nursing home, in Denver, Colorado, April 23, 2020. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

The official death counts for coronavirus continue to be a source of division and politicization, with some questioning the accuracy of the data.

Limited access to testing in the early stages of the pandemic has created fears that the actual death count could be far higher in some areas. White House Covid-19 Task Force response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, MD, stated that the United States is including coronavirus-related deaths with pre-existing conditions within the Covid-19 death tally. This tactic has drawn controversy, as many prominent figures, including Elon Musk, argue that it is a way for the government to inflate the death toll.

Many experts argue the opposite, stating that the United States has underreported its cases. Another point of confusion surrounding the numbers is the divergence in reporting standards from state to stateGeorgia and Florida have come under fire for misreporting coronavirus data while reopening to the public. Additionally, questions around possible false negatives are causing concern for the potential underreporting of actual numbers. 

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE


Faced with an appalling US coronavirus death toll, the right denies the figures – The Guardian – 5/15/20 Hume repeated the claim on Tucker Carlson’s show. He appeared to convince Carlson, who suggested “there may be reasons that people seek an inaccurate death count” and added: “When journalists work with numbers, there sometimes is an agenda, unfortunately.” […] In fact, epidemiologists including Dr Anthony Fauci, the government’s top public health expert, say more people have died from coronavirus than has been reported.

As US coronavirus death toll mounts, so does the belief by some that it is exaggerated – Fox News – 5/15/20 “I think a lot of clinicians are putting that condition (COVID-19) on death certificates when it might not be accurate because they died with coronavirus and not of coronavirus,” Macomb County, Mich., Chief Medical Examiner Daniel Spitz in an interview with the Ann Arbor News last month. “Are they entirely accurate? No,” Spitz said. “Are people dying of it? Absolutely. Are people dying of other things and coronavirus is maybe getting credit? Yeah, probably.

True Coronavirus Death Toll Is Likely To Be Higher Than The Recorded Numbers – NPR – 5/26/20 There’s also the fact that we have seen data that suggests there are more deaths happening that we’re not seeing. For instance, if you look at the number of deaths that have been attributed to, like, influenza or pneumonia over the course of this summer in hot spots like New York, you’ll see that it is a much higher rate than has been in previous years and is, in fact, higher than would be accounted for by just the flu going around.

What we’ll need to find the true COVID-19 death toll – National Geographic – 5/22/20 Ongoing test shortages in the U.S. mean that not everyone who is hospitalized will necessarily be tested for SARS-CoV-2 infection, which is why the CDC also relies on a doctor’s clinical expertise to confirm the cause of death, Anderson says. The problem, Weinberger found, is that some states count COVID-19 cases that are diagnosed by symptoms alone (known in epidemiology-speak as “probable cases”) while others don’t. Also, the cause listed on a death certificate could be inaccurate, he says.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Aaron Blake on Twitter, 5/26/20: Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) asks acting HHS IG Christi Grimm whether gov’t is looking into Vitamin C or Vitamin D + Zinc as potential treatments for coronavirus. Grimm says she hasn’t looked into that — but adds that Vitamin C is often fraudulently offered as a potential cure.

Andrew Villegas on Twitter, 5/26/20: @RosenthalHealth: “My mother had a long and meaningful life. Being counted would give her premature death meaning as well.”

Laura Strickler on Twitter, 5/22/20: NEW: My latest -matching the @WSJ -on the news that the Trump Administration has decided they will not make nursing homes report COVID-19 deaths prior to May. Public health experts say this means the true cost of the #coronavirus pandemic to older Americans will remain unknown.

Clay Travis on Twitter, 5/23/20: This isn’t journalism. This is fear porn. It’s also not remotely accurate, it’s literally counting, which means it’s the opposite of incalculable. Every 13 days 100,000 people die. For decades. Coronavirus has been, and will be, a small percentage of people who die this year.

Robin Williams Adams on Twitter, 5/23/20: COVID-19 numbers being reported in Florida are “fairly accurate,” within OK margin of error, though some under & some over counting, says Dr. Charles J. Lockwood, dean USF Morsani College of Medicine. He’s just been interviewed on Florida This Week coronavirus program now on PBS.

John Hawkins on Twitter, 5/23/20: It doesn’t really matter what the Coronavirus “models” say right now because none of them are accurate.

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