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Only 6% of COVID-19 deaths were directly caused by the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Pre­vention reported last week. According to the CDC, those who died of the virus died with an average of 2.6 under­lying con­di­tions, including heart disease, severe asthma, obesity, and more. 

This sta­tistic was widely mis­rep­re­sented on social media and by news outlets. The numbers seem at first to show that COVID-19 is rarely serious enough to cause death in the host. 

However, the CDC cleared up the numbers and told the public that the cause of death indi­cated on a cer­tificate is often a byproduct of COVID-19. The death cer­tificate is very spe­cific. Therefore, if it says that someone died of res­pi­ratory failure, it means they died of res­pi­ratory failure that came as a result of COVID-19. People need to know all the facts before they cry “con­spiracy.”

All this said, there are cer­tainly instances of gov­ernment agencies and people in posi­tions of power going out of their way to skew the facts, causing a wake of damage to people and the country.  

The CDC came under media fire in May when it was dis­covered that the agency had aggre­gated results of viral tests and antibody tests. Put simply, viral tests tell whether someone has the disease at the time of the test, while antibody tests tell whether a person has had the disease in the past. 

Since the agency mixed the test results, there was no clear picture of what the actual number of infected persons was. Because the CDC’s case numbers included people who were not infected at the time, but may have had the disease in the past, business in states with require­ments based solely on case numbers were forced to remain closed. 

People lost their jobs, small busi­nesses had to close their doors per­ma­nently, and the economy con­tinued to fall as lockdown orders became a new country-wide norm. 

As the chief reporter and the central authority con­cerning all things COVID-19, the CDC failed Amer­icans. The agency was given an unprece­dented amount of power, arguably the most power a gov­ernment agency has seen in the history of the country. It failed the country. 

On top of the numerous failures of the CDC, state gov­ern­ments and private labs mis­re­ported cases and painted a mis­leading picture of the virus. 

In recent months, we have seen a swath of coro­n­avirus-related debacles coming from dif­ferent states. Most notably, Florida was in the news recently when it came out that certain labs were reporting only pos­itive cases to the official state count. At the time, labs were finding an average of only 14% pos­i­tivity.

The issue was even­tually cor­rected, but there are still labs in the state reporting only their pos­itive cases

Another notable issue dis­covered in Florida was that deaths from the virus were not being counted in the time period they should have been. Within the span of one day, the Florida Department of Health would report death totals of deaths occurring over a number of days. Because of this, the single-day death tolls pre­sented by the DOH were not accurate. 

In actu­ality, there was not a day in the state before July 17 where deaths exceeded 89. Before that date, however, the DOH reported single-day coro­n­avirus-related death records of more than 150. This alarmist tech­nique of counting deaths outside of the spec­ified window caused state and local gov­ern­ments to place stricter restric­tions than were nec­essary, which resulted in eco­nomic damage to the state and to its inhab­i­tants.

Issues like these can seri­ously skew pos­i­tivity graphs and have an effect on deci­sions made to slow the spread of the virus. Stay-at-home orders pre­vented small busi­nesses from making enough money to stay in oper­ation. Reports indicate that almost 3,000 busi­nesses in South Florida had to shut down due to coro­n­avirus-related clo­sures. 

Many people lost their jobs because of mis­re­ported and mis­rep­re­sented facts from the people who were sup­posed to be pro­tecting the lives of their con­stituents. 

This trend of shutting down an entire economy to protect people from some­thing that may or may not be a serious threat is extremely dan­gerous. America, a country usually known for its resilience and can-do attitude, has seen a slump in eco­nomic output, an increase in unem­ployment, an increase in debt, and countless other avoidable injuries.

The blame for these detri­mental mishaps is on our law­makers and our gov­ern­mental agencies. Those elected and assigned to take care of the country and its people should do just that. But instead, our leaders have made hasty, fear-driven deci­sions that led to irreparable damages. 

All of this said, the coro­n­avirus is a threat to the well­being of Amer­icans. I believe that there is a place for gov­ernment inter­vention when it comes to saving lives, and a global pan­demic seems to be a rea­sonable excuse for this. If agencies like the CDC and state health centers would double-check their facts before making sweeping leg­islative deci­sions, they could avoid mishaps that prove detri­mental to the country.

 

Liam Bredberg is a senior studying Political Economy.