About Those “Coincidental” Coronavirus Deaths

The most bizarre coronavirus debate I’ve seen over the past week has to do with our nation’s recording of COVID-19 deaths. Unfortunately, that number is rising quickly (nearly 2,000 new deaths were reported on Tuesday alone), even as the rate of new infections and hospitalizations, in hard-hit parts of the country, is thankfully starting to drop.

As of the time I’m writing this, the death toll in the United States is around 15,000. It’s a heartbreaking number that will only grow larger. This is what President Trump was referring to last week when he said our country was in for “a very, very painful two weeks.”

But even though we were warned of this, the uptick has compelled some (like Fox News’s Brit Hume and Tucker Carlson), to challenge whether or not these numbers are even legitimate. The basis for their argument has to do with something Dr. Deborah Birx (the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator) said in a press briefing earlier this week.

Birx explained that if “someone dies with COVID-19, we are counting that as a COVID-19 death.”

This would seem like a no-brainer, but — believe it or not — the rule actually differs from how some countries are recording their death tolls.

“There are other countries that if you had a preexisting condition,” said Birx, “and let’s say the virus caused you to go to the ICU and then have a heart or kidney problem, some countries are recording that as a heart issue or a kidney issue and not a COVID-19 death.”

Now, we obviously can’t control how other nations tally their numbers. But if the goal is to track the human toll of COVID-19, it’s absurd to dismiss a person who was hospitalized and died because an underlying condition kept his or her body from fending off the coronavirus’s systematic attack.

It would be one thing if someone was diagnosed with the virus, and then was run over by a semi-truck on his way back to his house to self-quarantine. But that’s not what anyone’s talking about. We’re talking about people who wouldn’t have died when they did, had they not gotten COVID-19.

For months, medical experts have explained that the coronavirus is particularly deadly to those with underlying conditions. That’s why these individuals (along with older people) have been labeled as “high risk.” Why on earth, then, would we pretend that when someone in this category gets the virus, is hospitalized, quickly deteriorates, and dies… their COVID-19 diagnosis was purely coincidental?

The answer seems to be politics, as partisans in the media and beyond are now framing the tally methodology as a “death-rating scam,” suggesting that the true intent is to needlessly scare people and cause political damage to President Trump:

And just the other day, Bill O’Reilly even went as far as to try and minimize the significance of coronavirus deaths within the elderly community, saying on Sean Hannity’s radio show that “many people who are dying, both here and around the world, were on their last legs anyway.”

On their last legs anyway? Good grief.

The bottom line is that there’s no evidence that the number is being inflated. If anything, it’s lower than it should be, being that not everyone in this country who has died of coronavirus-like symptoms or complications was tested for COVID-19.

Still, the official number is plenty painful as it is. And pointing out that a lot of those who died had pre-conditions or a lot of years under his or her belt doesn’t make it any less painful.

I wish some people could put aside their politics and disdain for the media long enough to grasp that.