HomeHealth Care NewsCOVID-19 Deaths Include Patients with Other Diseases, Data Show

COVID-19 Deaths Include Patients with Other Diseases, Data Show

The deaths of Americans with COVID-19 who had other diseases were reclassified to indicate COVID was a primary cause, distorting U.S. mortality statistics, an analysis by a Johns Hopkins University (JHU) researcher reveals.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) instructed physicians, coroners, and medical examiners to include COVID-19 as a “primary” cause of death, even if a person suffered from other illnesses, on March 24, 2020.

As a result, the distribution of deaths during the recent pandemic differs markedly from patterns over the previous two decades, says Genevieve Briand, Ph.D., assistant director of the Advanced Academic Program at JHU, in a February 2022 working paper titled “Age Distribution per Cause U.S. Monthly Deaths 1999-2021.”

Briand plotted monthly U.S. mortality rates per age group for each of the six disease categories that are the leading causes of death—heart, cancer, respiratory, cerebrovascular, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes—and deaths attributed to COVID under the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).

“COVID-19 deaths numbers were overstated, as, logically, had [the CDC’s] new ICD-10 code not been created, all these deaths would have found a home in other cause of death categories,” wrote Briand.

Mortality Peaks

There have been peaks in mortality during the pandemic as high as the April 2020 figure that led to prolonged shutdowns, according to Briand.

A surge in deaths in April 2020, two months after the U.S. outbreak, alarmed public health officials and served to justify far-reaching measures to stem the virus’s spread. The CDC data shows two comparable peaks, in January and September 2021, says Briand.

“A peak in deaths in January 2021 is not unexpected—as peaks of deaths, more often than not, occurred in January,” wrote Briand. “The fact that the April 2020 peak is lower than the January 2021 one, by a larger magnitude than the January 2018 peak compared to it, and the fact that the September 2021 peak is nearly as high as the April 2020 peak, give further ground that the so-feared April 2020 peak was not as alarming as [we were] led to believe.”

‘Counterproductive Policies’

U.S. COVID-19 mortality is much higher than in some other developed countries, according to an analysis of COVID death rates in the United States, Sweden, and South Korea (as of December 2021), by David R. Usher of Civitas Economic Engineering published in Intellectual Conservative on February 20, 2022.

“The United States COVID [death] rate since the beginning of the pandemic is 30.9 times higher than South Korea’s and 1.6 times higher than Sweden’s, even though vaccination rates of these countries are between 60 percent and 80 percent—a difference unlikely to be a significant factor affecting deaths (even if vaccines are assumed to be effective),” wrote Usher.

The reason for the higher U.S. death rate is that the government’s response to the pandemic violated the rules of epidemiology, says Usher.

“[U.S.] policy did not focus on reducing deaths of high-risk individuals over the age of 65, but were counterproductively applied to everyone,” wrote Usher. “Focusing on infection rates caused a pandemic of experimental counterproductive policies and scared the general population.”

The findings in Briand’s paper are not surprising, says Twila Brase, the president and co-founder of Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom.

“The COVID-19 numbers have been fuzzy, inaccurate, and not credible from the start. The CDC guideline telling doctors to put Covid on the death certificate as a cause of death even if they weren’t sure was the beginning of numbers inflation,” said Brase. “Extra federal funds for every hospitalized COVID patient also encouraged inflation of COVID numbers. And the combining of pneumonia, influenza and COVID (PIC) into a batch number allowed further inflation.

The way health agencies identified COVID-19 was also an issue, says Brase.  “The use of over-sensitive PCR tests, and the continual push to do COVID PCR testing on Americans led to many people being diagnosed with COVID, when what was actually being found, as Dr. Fauci once said, were ‘dead nucleotides, period.’”

Bonner Russell Cohen, Ph.D. (bcohen@nationalcenter.org) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.

Internet info:

Genevieve Briand, “Age Distribution per Cause U.S. Monthly Deaths 1999-2021, March 2022.”

See related article.

This article was updated on July 1, 2022.

Bonner R Cohen
Bonner R Cohen
Bonner R. Cohen is a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, a position he has held since 2002.


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