November 6, 2021
When will the CDC correct its COVID death counts, as Italy just did?
The Summit caught a fascinating story out of Italy: the Italian Higher Institute of Health decided it had miscounted COVID deaths. Instead of looking at people who died with COVID, as it once did, it looked only at people who died from COVID — leading to a 97% decrease in Italy's COVID death count. So far, the CDC shows no signs of following suit.
According to The Summit:
The Italian Higher Institute of Health has drastically reduced the country's official COVID death toll number by over 97 per cent after changing the definition of a fatality to someone who died from COVID rather than with COVID.
Italian newspaper Il Tempo reports that the Institute has revised downward the number of people who have died from COVID rather than with COVID from 130,000 to under 4,000.
"Yes, you read that right. Turns out 97.1% of deaths hitherto attributed to Covid were not due directly to Covid," writes Toby Young.
Of the of the 130,468 deaths registered as official COVID deaths since the start of the pandemic, only 3,783 are directly attributable to the virus alone.
"All the other Italians who lost their lives had from between one and five pre-existing diseases. Of those aged over 67 who died, 7% had more than three co-morbidities, and 18% at least two," writes Young.
"According to the Institute, 65.8% of Italians who died after being infected with Covid were ill with arterial hypertension (high blood pressure), 23.5% had dementia, 29.3% had diabetes, and 24.8% atrial fibrillation. Add to that, 17.4% had lung problems, 16.3% had had cancer in the last five years and 15.7% suffered from previous heart failures."
There's more interesting material here, for the article discusses the ethics of overcounting to induce panic.
Reading between the lines, the problem in Italy was that the socialized medicine system was unable to cope with an influx of patients during a bad flu season. (And it was a bad flu season.)
The actual data match closely what those who are not panicking have observed in America. As with every flu season, there are unlucky young (and youngish) people who die from the flu. Overall, though, the ones who die are either very elderly or have comorbidities of the type described in the quoted material above.
In America, however, counting COVID deaths is more of an art than it is a science (and that's not even getting into the way the government incentivized hospitals to count COVID deaths). You can see here the CDC's instructions.
A February 2021 article at the American Association of Medical College's website assures readers that no one is really overcounting in America: "There's no evidence of orchestrated inflation, but parsing the role that the disease plays in some deaths is not always easy for doctors — nor is the process clear to the public."
The article then discusses the fact that deaths from COVID are confusing because COVID creates a lot of "clinical complications." However — and this is where the article starts tying in with what we know to be true:
[T]he disease's brutal impact on people with other medical conditions — such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart ailments — can make COVID-19 one of several contributors to a death, says Sally Aiken, MD, chief medical examiner of Spokane County, Washington. Aiken has seen cases where elderly people who were in advanced decline due to Alzheimer's disease and atrial fibrillation contracted COVID-19 and soon died.
In other words, COVID hastens death but doesn't necessarily cause it. Moreover (and, again, this matters), when it comes to death certificates:
Part I and II of a death certificate ask what caused a death and what other factors contributed to it. If COVID-19 appears among the causes and contributors, CDC guidance counts that as a COVID-19-related death.
Part I asks for the "immediate cause" of death, followed by any "conditions that led to the immediate cause," the CDC explains in guidelines for certifying COVID-19 fatalities. For example: In some COVID-19 cases, the immediate cause is an affliction that arose from the disease, such as pneumonia, while COVID-19 gets listed under that as an underlying condition that led to death. In other words, COVID-19 caused the pneumonia.
Alaska's policy is a good yardstick for what's going on:
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services explains on its website why the disease is cited if it played any role at all: "Whether COVID-19 shortened a life by 15 years or 15 minutes; whether COVID-19 is an underlying or contributing condition, the virus was in circulation, infected an Alaskan, and hastened their death."
Parse your way through all of this, and it becomes clear that COVID, because it is a new and highly adaptable coronavirus, hastened the deaths of those with one foot in the grave and one foot on a banana peel by increasing their vulnerability to the things that were already killing them. This is sad, for every minute, day, or week spent with a loved one matters. Additionally, the extreme lockdowns consigned so many to heartbreakingly lonely deaths.
However, if you do as the Italian government did and strip away age and comorbidities from the death count, COVID is just another flu for most people. The economy does not need to stop; people do not need to be locked up; the disease is treatable; and mass vaccination mandates are unnecessary, ineffective, and totalitarian.