Fauci debunks theories of low CDC coronavirus death toll

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on efforts to get back to work and school during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Washington, D.C., June 30, 2020.

Al Drago | Reuters

White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci debunked online theories promoted by President Donald Trump that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has changed its guidance for tallying coronavirus deaths, showing a fraction of total Covid-19 fatalities. 

On Sunday, Twitter removed a post retweeted by Trump that claimed the CDC had “quietly” updated its guidance to indicate only 6% of the country’s coronavirus death toll — roughly 9,000 deaths —  was actually caused by the virus, according to a CNN report. The tweet said the remaining 94% had “other serious illnesses.” 

Fauci told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Tuesday that the CDC guidance, last updated on Aug. 26, indicates that of the people who have died from the virus, “a certain percentage of them had nothing else but just Covid.” However, that does not mean someone with an underlying illness didn’t die of Covid-19, Fauci said. 

“That does not mean that someone who has hypertension or diabetes who dies of Covid didn’t die of Covid-19. They did,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told GMA. “So the numbers you’ve been hearing — there are 180,000-plus deaths — are real deaths from Covid-19. Let (there) not be any confusion about that.” 

“It’s not 9,000 deaths from Covid-19, it’s 180-plus-thousand deaths,” Fauci said. 

At least 183,600 people have died from Covid-19 in the U.S. as of Tuesday, accounting for just over 21% of the globe’s total reported deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

People who are older are at greater risk for serious illness, and possibly death, from Covid-19. The CDC reports that eight out of ten Covid-19 deaths reported in the U.S. are people over 65 years old. 

The risk is also higher for anyone at any age with underlying health conditions, the CDC says. According to the CDC report, thousands of people of all ages with diabetes and hypertension, among other diseases, have died from Covid-19. 

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, has previously said that the coronavirus poses a greater risk to those with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes and significant obesity, which are seen in every age group. 

“Remember, those comorbidities span the entire age group. We do know that we have people in the younger age groups with significant Type 1 diabetes and may also have individuals with significant obesity,” Birx said during a task force press briefing in June. “We know that those are risk factors, so risk factors go with your comorbidity, not necessarily with your age.” 

The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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