Interactive graph of deaths via USAFacts.org
Nathan Melcher | Computer Design Editor
January 31, 2021
January 21 marked one year from the first reported case of COVID-19 in the United States, according to the CDC. That day was the start of a pandemic that is still plaguing the world. Over 100 million people have contracted the virus worldwide with 425,000+ deaths in the United States. Many ask the question: were all of these deaths caused by COVID-19 or would these people have passed otherwise from an underlying condition?
During the election last year, this became a very political topic with many conservatives believing that these death numbers were forged, and when people were dying from cancer or other medical conditions, it would be declared COVID. Even President Trump joined in, retweeting a claim that only 6% of COVID deaths were real (the post was later removed by Twitter).
Do these claims have any real legitimacy? In short, evidence says no.
The National Cancer Institute, a government organization tasked with cancer research and training, estimated that in 2020, 606,520 would die from cancer. This number came from SEER, the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program of the NCI. When compared with the number of actual cancer deaths from February 1st, 2020 to January 2nd, 2021, the number seems to line up. 590,518 people died from cancer in the US during the above time frame. This seems to back up the NCI’s estimate of about 606,000, with the difference being due to USAFacts only having an 11-month sample size.
This debunks most of the claims of other medical conditions being written off as COVID deaths. But what about the other theories? Any claims of false COVID deaths are “a gross misinterpretation” of how death certificates work, Chief Mortality Statistician at the CDC Robert Anderson said. Many other professionals, including Justin Lessler, an infectious disease epidemiologist, have stated that while they don’t have an exact number of deaths from COVID, the current numbers match “the scale and order of magnitude of deaths” caused by the virus.
For those who claim that the data is only false reported strokes, heart attacks, and other heart diseases, the data also debunks those claims. The CDC reported that in 2017, the average number of deaths in the US were 219.4 per 100,000 people. Scaled up to the US population, of 328.2 million, we can estimate that in a given year, there would be 720,070 deaths as a result of heart disease. USAfacts.org reports that 675,080 people died from heart disease in the US during the February 1st, 2020 to January 2nd, 2021 time frame. The difference in about 45,000 deaths can once again be attributed to the smaller sample size of only 11 months.
These patients with underlying conditions lost their life because of COVID since their body was preoccupied fighting something else.
“Although some people with underlying health conditions would have died no matter what,” sophomore Trevor Novak said, “COVID made the likelihood of them dying much higher; more people with underlying conditions died this year than in other years.”
This scientific topic has turned political these last 6 months, with false information going around and people believing everything they see. With the official death records starting to trickle in from states across the US, we can see that these claims of inflated numbers are false and can be debunked.