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Did the CDC admit that only 6% of COVID-19 deaths actually died of COVID-19? NO!

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The phrase “only 6%” trended on Twitter over the weekend after a series of posts accused the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of quietly reducing the number of deaths due to COVID-19 from nearly 154,000 to a little more than 9,200, or 6 percent of that initial total.

Several of the posts, which were widely shared across social media networks before being taken down for violating platform policies, were later linked to followers of the QAnon conspiracy group. This organization has been known to spread false news in the past. President Donald Trump retweeted at least two of the statements only to fuel the fire of this incorrect statement.

In fact, the CDC did not “quietly say” that only 6% of the reported COVID-19 deaths were actually due to the virus. What it does say is the 6% of the 154,000 deaths reported since March COVID-19 is the sole cause of death listed on a death certificate. This means that 94% of those deaths were in people who had other contributing conditions listed such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and cancer. Lots of people have one or two chronic medical conditions.

The CDC’s website provides weekly updates and the agency includes information on additional conditions present in patients who died with COVID-19. These other illnesses or conditions found to be present in a patient are called comorbidities. The agency also includes a chart detailing the number of patients with each additional condition.

This latest twisting of data reminds we need to be cautious in interpreting statistics and that there are groups who intentionally misrepresent the facts.

Written by:
Prerana Sangani, MD, September 2, 2020
Swarthmore College (undergrad)
University of Rochester (med school)
UC Berkeley (MPH)
California Pacific Medical Center (residency)