Donald Trump is reportedly pushing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to revise its methods for counting COVID-19 deaths in a way that would significantly reduce those numbers. Currently, over 83,000 people in the U.S. have been counted as victims of the novel coronavirus pandemic, but some public health experts believe that number to be too low due to issues such as people dying in their homes without making it to the hospital.
However, Trump would like the death toll to be even lower by excluding those who were “presumed positive,” meaning that they presented with many signs of COVID-19 but didn’t have a positive test result specifically from a CDC lab. This seems rather convenient considering the ongoing shortage of tests in the U.S.
This is happening: Trump and members of his #coronavirus task force are pushing the CDC to revise how it counts coronavirus-related deaths, apparently in an efforft to reduce the number of deaths being reported. https://t.co/e3vtfZe2er— Caroline Orr (@RVAwonk) May 13, 2020
The administration would also like to exclude deaths that were not the “direct result” of the virus. Such a revision could drastically reduce death toll numbers as most of the fatalities from the coronavirus are due to various complications and the massive amounts of stress put on the body by COVID-19.
According to the Daily Beast, Trump has been in talks with “top officials” to push new methods of counting coronavirus deaths that would make him look better. At the same time, coronavirus task force coordinator and woman who lost her soul during that one press conference Deborah Birx has reportedly been urging the CDC to do the same.
However, CDC officials who spoke with the Daily Beast say that they’re pushing back on these requests and feel that they are very likely under-counting COVID-19 deaths.
“I don’t worry about this overreporting issue,” said the CDC’s Chief of the Mortality Statistics Branch. “We’re almost certainly underestimating the number of deaths [in the country].”
In New York City, from March 11 to May 2, 75% of all 32,000 deaths were "excess" - 24,000 more deaths than seasonally expected. 19,000 were confirmed or presumed #COVID19 cases. That leaves 5,000 unexplained excess deaths. https://t.co/GSSq22JMhE pic.twitter.com/OpPvlV6XlG— Philip N Cohen (@familyunequal) May 11, 2020
“The system can always get better. But if we’ve learned anything it’s that we’re seeing some of these individuals who have died of the virus slip through the cracks,” said another CDC official. “It’s not that we’re overcounting.”
Meanwhile, local doctors and officials have reported that they are already having issues ensuring that the coronavirus death tolls are not under-counted. Some report that family members of victims have requested that the code for COVID-19 death be left off of the death certificate to make it easier to collect their loved one’s remains.
Additionally, with the high levels of chaos and stress in hospitals right now, there is plenty of potential for human error. Doctors who input the cause of death as “coronavirus” or “COVID” instead of specifically “COVID-19” could be responsible for hundreds or thousands of cases being left out of the official death toll.
Trump is pushing the CDC not to reduce the number of deaths but to reduce the number of deaths that the CDC counts. Just a total abdication of a the most basic responsibility of a President - to keep us safe.— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) May 13, 2020
Of course, we can always compare the number of overall deaths in 2020 to 2019. Good luck trying to cover that up.