UPDATED September 1 at 12:00 p.m. EST
The week of August 24, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Weekly Index disclosed “[F]or 6% of deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned.”
That means of the 183,000 U.S. deaths attributed to COVID as of the release of this article that 10,980 people died from COVID. The remaining 172,000-plus deaths occurred with COVID.
What that doesn’t mean is that only 10,980 people in America died due to COVID.
However, the disclosure raises questions about whether COVID deaths in the U.S. and Ohio are overstated.
In a text exchange with Dan Tierney, Press Secretary for Governor Mike DeWine, The Ohio Star asked Tierney if Ohio distinguishes “between someone who dies from the virus and someone who dies with the virus.”
Tierney’s response: “CDC is entity that has established cause of death reporting guidance. [Ohio Department of Health] ODH has not adopted separate guidance.”
On Monday, August 31, The Ohio COVID site listed 4,138 deaths. That means if the CDC finding applies in Ohio, the total number of Ohioans who died from only COVID is 248 and the number of people who died with COVID and other comorbidities totals 3,890.
From China, and Italy to New York City, COVID’s risk has not changed– people who are healthy are at a much lower risk of severe illness and death than the aged who have other serious underlying conditions.
The CDC disclosure doesn’t change that, rather it gives a clearer look into the medical profile of those most at risk – at least in some sense.
Per the CDC, the top causes of death with COVID as an accompanying condition are:
- Influenza & pneumonia
- Respiratory failure
- High blood pressure
- Brain damage and impaired blood flow
- Cardiac arrest
- Heart failure
- Kidney failure
- Suicide, homicide and domestic violence
- Other adverse events – medical treatment mishaps – and other medical conditions
In the U.S., people who died with COVID on average, had “2.6 additional conditions or causes per death” according to the CDC index.
It makes sense that most of the conditions on the CDC list could be made worse – and fatal – with the existence of COVID. Influenza & pneumonia, respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, heart failure could all certainly be exacerbated by the introduction of a virus into the body.
However, determining whether COVID caused heart failure, kidney failure or diabetes (or any other listed health condition) to be fatal would require a better understanding of the viral load in each of the deceased patients.
Certain PCR tests can determine viral load for the test taker – recording and reporting those numbers would give even deeper insight into the fatal effect of COVID.
The numbers that should unequivocally be subtracted from death totals are causes of death such as suicide, domestic violence and medical accidents. Those numbers may not be large, but they can be determined and should be excluded.
In an interview with The Star, Warren County Sheriff Larry L. Sims said that one of the deaths in his county attributed to COVID is a woman who was in jail that was released and committed suicide. Detractors of the idea that deaths ‘with COVID’ were being counted dismissed the anecdote. Now, it proves true.
What the 6% statement from the CDC means to Ohio’s numbers is also difficult to determine. Pike County, Ohio Department of Health indicated that a COVID case was traced to November 2019, which would mean that in that part of the state the virus was spreading undetected and unmitigated – with a high contagion factor – during the holidays.
Ohio hospital admissions from influenza-like illnesses peaked in February at around 1,200 in a week – a time when many schools around Ohio closed for flu-like illnesses that many now attribute to the first wave of COVID.
Dissecting the death totals for Ohio might include a lower toll since March, when full-scale state intervention began, however if COVID was in the buckeye state in November 2019 there may be significantly more deaths attributed to the virus that would pad the current total.
Yet, it is difficult to understand how a drowning, shooting or suicide can be counted as COVID and trumpeted as part of the epidemic’s death toll.
Since the inception of the state’s response to COVID worst-case scenarios have been the guidepost for public policy. In March, Ohio Director of Health (ODH) Amy Acton guided Ohio Governor Mike DeWine in crafting statewide policies based on estimates that at its peak Ohio would record 62,000 COVID cases a day – national estimates projected that 2 million Americans would succumb to COVID.
The Imperial College Model (ICM) was the foundation of Acton’s estimates and Ohio’s exponentially incorrect modeling. ICM ended up being the foundation of ODH orders – orders that multiple courts around Ohio have ruled arbitrary and unconstitutional.
Early requests from Governor DeWine and Amy Acton for compliance from Ohioans with shelter-in-place orders and business shutdowns were buttressed by the plea to trade two weeks of normal life in order for the COVID curve to be flattened and for hospitals to have time to ramp capacity to treat the forthcoming surge of patients.
The surge never came. Hospitals never came close to capacity – excess spaces built to house patients were not used and shut down.
Governor DeWine, with the help of Ohio State University Dr. Andrew Thomas, Chief Clinical Officer, eventually scrapped Acton’s plans and built the Ohio Public Health Advisory System , a forecasting tool based on “what if” instead of “what is” with respect to COVID.
Although the worst-case scenario never manifested, Governor Mike DeWine still compares COVID to the 1918 Spanish Flu.
The comparison may be an attempt to confirm an initial bias, but the comparative impact of the two pandemics is not the same. The two biggest differences – COVID does 90% of its fatal damage to people 60 years or older with almost three underlying conditions, whereas the Spanish Flu was fatal to all age ranges; COVID death totals pale in comparison to the 1918 epidemic – one century ago the virus took 675,000 American lives (U.S. population was 103 million).
The most recent information from the CDC regarding annual death numbers in Ohio is from 2017 and is as follows:
- Heart disease – 28,008
- Cancer – 25,643
- Accidents – 8,921
- Chronic lower respiratory disease – 7,312
- Stroke – 6,425
- Alzheimer’s disease – 5,117
- Diabetes – 3,740
- Influenza/Pneumonia – 2,243
- Kidney disease – 2,237
- Septicemia – 2,066
Last week the CDC flip-flopped – not an uncommon practice – with respect to testing. On Monday, August 24 the organization said “If you have been in close contact (within 6 feet) of a person with a COVID-19 infection for at least 15 minutes but do not have symptoms: You do not necessarily need a test unless you are a vulnerable individual or your health care provider or State or local public health officials recommend you take one.”
Three days later – after receiving verbal retaliation from some politicians and scientists -CDC Director Robert Redfield walked-back the strength of his Monday comment saying “[t]esting is meant to drive actions and achieve specific public health objectives. Everyone who needs a COVID-19 test, can get a test. Everyone who wants a test does not necessarily need a test; the key is to engage the needed public health community in the decision with the appropriate follow-up action.”
While national spokespersons and political leaders iron-out their ever-changing positions on the virus, one thing is unchanging: policies have wrecked emotional health in our youth, skyrocketed anxiety in adults, crippled entire business segments and left our dying seniors isolated without loved ones.
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Photo “Mike DeWine” by Mike DeWine.