By ELIAS WEISS
Star-Tribune Digital Coordinator / Staff Writer
A CDC study this week found that 94 percent of the 183,474 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. were reported in patients who had at least one underlying health condition.
This would put 2,425 of Virginia's COVID-19 deaths in question.
The CDC reports that a proper death certificate will list up to four "underlying causes" that led to the "immediate cause" of death.
"Let's say someone was admitted to the hospital because of symptoms of COVID," said Mark Halstead, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery and pediatrics at Washington University, in a statement. "They test positive, so COVID would be listed. Their case progressed where they developed respiratory failure and now are on a ventilator. Respiratory failure can be listed."
According to the CDC, influenza, pneumonia, respiratory failure, hypertensive disease, diabetes, vascular and unspecified dementia, cardiac arrest, heart failure and renal failure are the most common underlying conditions.
In some cases, such as pneumonia, the coronavirus can be the direct cause of these documented underlying conditions. In others, like obesity or Alzheimer's, the underlying conditions were preexisting in the patient before they contracted COVID-19.
Forty-three percent of deaths in the U.S. listed pneumonia as an underlying condition, which can be presumed to be a direct result of the coronavirus.
Dr. Nicole Saphier, who specializes in Breast Cancer, said as an example that 42 percent of breast cancer deaths have organ failure listed in that "immediate cause" column. Twenty-four percent list respiratory failure.
"They wouldn't have died from those causes had they not had the cancer, and that's the same with a lot of these listed deaths," Saphier said in a Fox News interview yesterday. "They wouldn't have died from that acute respiratory failure, or sepsis, or some of the other causes, if they didn't have COVID. COVID, that virus, is what is actually causing those diseases, causing them to die."
President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday that, "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. The other 94% had 2-3 other serious illnesses & the overwhelming majority were of very advanced age."
Twitter removed the Tweet for violating a misinformation clause in their community guidelines.
The truth is somewhere in between, experts say.
"Yes, they also listed obesity, diabetes and Alzheimer's in some of the patients, but we know that," Saphier said in the interview. "We know people who have chronicle medical conditions aren't faring well with this virus, just like they don't fare well in general when they're hospitalized in general."
PolitiFact has also released a statement saying the federal data of COVID-19 victims from this CDC report has been grossly misconstrued.
"A Facebook post claimed that the CDC decreased the number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. from 153,504 to 9,210," the report stated. "That’s wrong."
The truth is, experts say, most of these "underlying conditions" did not preexist COVID-19 in patients who die of the novel virus.
"The majority of [COVID-19 deaths] are direct damage to the body from the virus," Saphier said.