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.