MYTH: Only 6% of those listed as coronavirus deaths in the United States actually died from the virus
FACT: Over 200,000 people in the US have died from health complications due to COVID
By: Kevin Fisher
Last updated: Updated October 16, 2020
On August 30, Twitter took down a tweet containing a claim about coronavirus deaths statistics that the President had retweeted earlier that day. The tweet stated “This week the CDC quietly updated the COVID number to admit that only 6% of all the 153,504 deaths recorded actually died from COVID. That’s 9,210 deaths.” This claim was later referenced by Trump campaign adviser Jenna Ellis, linking to an article on the website Gateway Pundit that was based on the earlier tweet.
The CDC did not in fact update its COVID-19 data to reflect that only 6% of then recorded COVID-19 deaths were due to COVID. The section of the CDC report relied upon for this claim states “Table 3 shows the types of health conditions and contributing causes mentioned in conjunction with deaths involving coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). 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.”
This statement does not mean that only 6% of reported COVID-19 deaths “actually died” from COVID-19. It means that in most cases people who died had other health complications, like heart disease, obesity, or contributing causes such as old age, that exacerbated the effects of COVID-19 to cause these deaths. Having an underlying health condition when a person dies from COVID-19 does not mean that COVID-19 is not a cause of death. This is very similar to what we see with deaths caused by seasonal flu.
We know COVID-19 impacts people with pre-existing health conditions more severely than other people. For these individuals, COVID-19 is a contributing cause of death. Each COVID-19 death under CDC guidelines requires a confirmed diagnosis, and for each of these deaths COVID-19 combined with other health factors to cause a death, just as an auto accident may impact a person with a heart condition more severely. This myth would mean that only young healthy people can die from COVID-19, and we know from experience and data that this is not the case.