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Let’s be clear
The number of COVID-19 related deaths in the U.S. nearly 190,000
coronavirus cdc

Congressman Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-Kansas) is unhappy because Facebook removed a post of his. Congressman Marshall said, in his Sept. 4 newsletter:

“A Facebook post published on Sunday afternoon (Aug. 30) in which I discussed updated COVID-19 death data released by the CDC was removed Monday night by Facebook without notice or explanation. The post discussed the new data published by the CDC showing that only 6% of deaths were due solely to COVID-19, while the remaining 94% of deaths had two or more underlying health conditions.

“Social media companies should not be allowed to censor science that they disagree with. This is corporate censorship, pure and simple. As a physician, I believe in discussing all data, options, and research with my patients. This was data published by the CDC, but unfortunately did not fit the narrative that the left and the liberal media want us to believe. We cannot allow social media companies to determine what we do and not learn about this virus. Americans deserve to be informed.

“Before being deleted by Facebook, the post had garnered nearly 80,000 views and was shared by thousands of followers.”

Marshall also shared his original post:

“This week the CDC quietly updated its COVID-19 data to reflect the number of deaths from COVID-19 only.

“Of the deaths previously recorded, only 6% had COVID-19 as the sole cause of death. The remaining 94% of deaths were the result of 2-3 additional serious illnesses and were of advanced age.

“The change in reporting reflects the difference between dying from COVID-19 and dying with COVID-19.

“President Trump and this administration continues its work to bring a safe vaccine to market with unprecedented speed to protect our most vulnerable.”

Here’ why the doctor’s post was misleading. The Centers for Disease Control updated coronavirus statistics on its website on Aug. 26, as it does (“quietly,” we presume) every week. The report on that date stated, as Dr. Marshall correctly quoted (except for the part about old age):

“For 6% of 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.”

So far so good. But then President Donald Trump retweeted an interpretation of that information promoted by conspiracy group QAnon:

“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 to 3 other serious illnesses and the overwhelming majority were of very advanced age.”

This spin was described by Live Science contributor Daryl Austin ( as “a bogus claim circulating on social media.”

Austin’s recent story, “Viral claim that only 6% of COVID-19 deaths were caused by the virus is flat-out wrong,” said the claim “is dangerously misleading, infectious disease experts told Live Science.”

Dr. Marshall deserves credit for not repeating the false conclusion, but he didn’t really shed light on the matter.

In fact, CDC continues to “quietly” update its COVID-19 data to provide a more detailed breakdown of comorbidities, or accompanying health conditions and contributing causes of death. When COVID-19 is listed on the death certificate, it is common for there to be additional conditions contributing to the death. These include respiratory diseases, circulatory diseases, sepsis, diabetes, intentional and unintentional injury, and more. That doesn’t mean that the deceased didn't “actually” die of COVID-19.

According to the CDC, “If the certifier suspects COVID-19 or determines it was likely (e.g., the circumstances were compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty), they can report COVID-19 as ‘probable’ or ‘presumed’ on the death certificate. COVID-19 is listed as the underlying cause on the death certificate in 94% of deaths. (emphasis ours).”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared on the ABC TV show “Good Morning America” on Sept. 1 and explained the Aug. 26 report, saying, “That does not mean that someone who has hypertension or diabetes who dies of Covid didn’t die of COVID-19. They did. So the numbers you’ve been hearing — there are 180,000-plus deaths — are real deaths from COVID-19. Let there not be any confusion about that.” 

This week, the number of COVID-19 related deaths in the United States is about to pass 190,000. To imply otherwise, even by using real data that the public has a right to discuss, is misleading.

— Susan Thacker is the news editor of the Great Bend Tribune. Send email to