May 8, 2020

73,297 Deaths - CDC's "Total Deaths" And The Dangerous Move To Undermine The Number

Donald Trump is no slouch when it comes to hoaxes. He's pushed hoaxes regarding:
  • President Obama's birthplace
  • Global Warming
  • Vince Foster's Suicide
So we shouldn't be surprised if/when we see this:
President Trump has complained to advisers about the way coronavirus deaths are being calculated, suggesting the real numbers are actually lower — and a number of his senior aides share this view, according to sources with direct knowledge.

What's next: A senior administration official said he expects the president to begin publicly questioning the death toll as it closes in on his predictions for the final death count and damages him politically. [Bolding in original]
This has been something that's been gurgling up for a while. It's listed among the "Top 10 Covid-19 Conspiracy Theories" compiled by The Cornell Alliance for Science:
Another far-right meme is the idea that COVID death rates are being inflated and therefore there is no reason to observe lockdown regulations or other social distancing measures.
Rolling Stone has more on this:
One such theory making the rounds on social media is the idea that death certificates have been knowingly manipulated by medical examiners to inflate the number of COVID-19 deaths, part of a larger right-wing talking point that the government is using the pandemic as an excuse to infringe on American rights.
On April 27, There was this:
Trump this weekend retweeted a claim that the coronavirus mortality rate in the United States might be being inflated as part of a political agenda against him. He said Monday that the American death toll is, in fact, accurate.

“I can only say what we’re doing; we’re reporting very accurately,” Trump said, suggesting other countries’ data may not be so reliable. He added: “It’s very important to us to do very accurate reporting and that’s what we’re doing.”

But the tweet Trump promoted clearly suggested this was happening in the United States.
You can see the retweet here:
We're even seeing it locally. Take a look at this from The Butler Eagle:
“I feel personally they're trying to crash the economy. They're inflating the numbers with virus. They're saying anybody who dies with COVID-19 died from it,” [Winifred Mary] Quinn said. “In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is doing it to get federal funding. Our Gov. Wolf is doing that as well.”
So how does the CDC arrive at its number? From Rolling Stone we learn:
Current CDC guidelines are “to list COVID-19 as the underlying cause of death, because it was the disease which initiated the chain of events that directly lead to death,” explains Dr. Sally Aiken, president of the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME), who says she has received a slew of media requests on the subject over the past week. “[The] idea is that without these conditions, the outcome may have been different.” Other underlying conditions are listed elsewhere on the death certificate, under a section for “other significant conditions contributing to death.”

“This public-health data is beneficial to all of us, eventually giving us a handle on who is most likely to die of COVID-19,” says Aiken. “It is not a conspiracy and not a departure from typical practice.” She also adds that it would be “very difficult” to manipulate data, considering how many “checks and balances [there are] in the U.S. death-investigation system,” with medical examiners’ offices sharing reports of COVID-19 deaths with both the Department of Health and the Bureau of Vital Records. “So there are three groups continuously analyzing, vetting, and refining the reported death information,” she says.
The CDC states that:
Case notifications were received by CDC from U.S. public health jurisdictions and the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS).
And the data is moved to the NNDSS, according to this report:
CDC, in partnership with CSTE, operates NNDSS. Notifiable disease surveillance is conducted by public health practitioners at local, state, and national levels to support disease prevention and control activities. The system also provides annual summaries of the data.
Oh, and it's been around, in one form or another, since 1912. The data are collected locally, submitted to the NNDSS which compiles it for the rest of the CDC. Multiple layers, multiple checks.

So the burden of proof is on the death-denier. How was the data manipulated? How did "they" (whoever "they" are, here) upset all those checks and balances between the various Departments of Health/Bureaus of Vital Records and the NNDSS of the CDC? How do they (the death-deniers) know the manipulation occurred? What evidence do they have that the numbers are being manipulated?

If the answer from a death-denier begins with a "I feel that..." you should tell them immediately that it's complete and utter bullshit.

One last point from Rolling Stone:
There is, of course, no evidence that COVID-19 death certificates are being manipulated to inflate the death count — and needless to say, having someone with a doctor’s credentials publicly diminish the threat of COVID-19 is dangerous to the public good, to say the least, says Dr. Joan Donovan, research director at Harvard Kennedy Shorenstein Center. “This kind of speculation is driving toward two different outcomes,” she says. “One is very dangerous in the sense that if people think the death rate is being inflated, they may take on risky behaviors. The second would be that, if someone is convinced that the profit motives of the hospital outweigh the drive to keep them well, they may avoid the hospital if they think it won’t provide good care.”
Bottom line is this: Denying the CDC's number is going to get more people killed.

First time Trump asserts it, I am hoping some reporter asks him for solid evidence and when none is supplied, tells him how he feels about getting even more Americans killed.

This is where we are.