Trump and His Evangelical Followers Twist Science to Reduce the Number of COVID-19 Deaths

President Donald Trump and his evangelical supporters are seizing on one line from an Aug. 26 update on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website to claim the real number of COVID-19 deaths are only “6% of the deaths” of the reported deaths in order to help Trump’s reelection.

Trump tweeted (and later deleted) this false claim on Aug. 30, noted Pro Publica:

Christian radio host Frank Sontag, heard on KKLA in Los Angeles, also tweeted this bogus claim and included a link to the right wing conspiracy website The Gateway Pundit on Aug. 31.

Pastor John MacArthur — who refuses to hold outdoor services for the health of his congregation — told his Grace Community Church in Los Angeles on Aug. 30 that “there is no pandemic” and referred to the “6%” line:

In truth, 6% of the deaths that have occurred can be directly attributable to COVID, 94% cannot. Of the 160,000 people that have died, 9,210 actually died from COVID.

Here is the part of the CDC website that Trump and the evangelicals are referring to and mangling to bring down COVID-19 death numbers (to help Trump’s reelection):

Table 3 shows the types of health conditions and contributing causes mentioned in conjunction with deaths involving coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

For 6% of the 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. The number of deaths with each condition or cause is shown for all deaths and by age groups.

Live Science explained this section of the CDC website and debunked the false claims (being made by Trump and evangelicals) on Sept. 2:

In other words, 6% of people who died when they had COVID-19 didn’t have underlying conditions, such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease, and didn’t experience any medical complications, such as kidney failure or sepsis.

But the other 94% of deaths were still caused by COVID-19, infectious disease experts said. That’s because many chronic, underlying conditions can make diseases that a person might otherwise recover from, such as COVID-19, suddenly deadly.

To knock their point home, Live Science also noted that AIDS-related deaths are not simply caused by AIDS only:

In addition, deadly medical complications can be the immediate cause of death when in fact a virus is the ultimate culprit, as is evident with HIV/AIDS…

A death certificate might list a primary cause of death as Kaposi’s sarcoma, for instance, but in fact, that patient would never have acquired the otherwise rare type of cancer if they hadn’t been infected with HIV. The HIV virus is still what ultimately killed the person.

(Sources: Live Science, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Frank M. Sontag/Twitter, Pro Publica)

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