Why is it that long past the peak of the virus, the number of deaths continues to skyrocket beyond what the revised government models predicted?
On Saturday, the Washington Post reported that Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Task Force response administrator, is accusing the CDC of using an antiquated model to track coronavirus deaths that could be responsible for inflating the death numbers by as much as 25 percent. The Post cites four unnamed sources who reported a dispute between Birx and Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last Wednesday over the modeling.
“There is nothing from the CDC that I can trust,” Birx reportedly said, according to two of the Post’s sources.
If the 25% inflation number is true, that would place the total deaths closer to the 66,000 death figure that the government predicted in April.
We need not rely on an off-the-record citation from the Washington Post to know that where there is smoke, there is fire. Birx already publicly admitted last month that CDC is telling states to code any death of an individual who tests positive for COVID-19 as a coronavirus death, even if it is not proven that the death was caused by COVID-19. The problem is now that we know the virus is so much more widespread than previously thought, and therefore so much less deadly, how can we assume that anyone who merely tests positive for the virus died because of the virus? This is especially true now that we know that the majority of those who test positive for coronavirus in areas where everyone is tested (ships, meatpacking plants, and prisons, for example) are asymptomatic?
This was always the vexing question concerning the death count, but it has become even more troubling now that deaths continue to surge long past the peak of the virus and with hospitalizations way down. We got the answer to this question last week when it became apparent that the overwhelming majority of deaths in recent days have been in nursing homes. In some states, more than 100% of reported deaths on a given day are in nursing homes, because they are now retroactively adding previously undeclared deaths as nursing home deaths.
The fact that states are just backfilling so many deaths of nursing home patients makes the numbers even more suspicious. There certainly is a terrible tragedy unfolding in senior facilities, partiality due to states demanding that these facilities take in coronavirus patients. It wasn’t until yesterday that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo rescinded the order forcing nursing homes into this suicidal policy.
Undoubtedly, many people have died from the virus in these facilities. The official count from 39 states that have reported data broken down by long-term senior care facility shows that 52% of all deaths nationwide have been in nursing homes, according to a spreadsheet prepared by Phil Kerpen.
We now know that states either mandated the return of hospitalized COVID-19 patients into nursing homes or gave no guidance to nursing homes on what to do with those who tested positive. As the Washington Post reports, while “Lockdown Larry” Hogan was locking down an entire state, “there was no process in place to ensure that the facility [in La Plata, Maryland, with the most COVID-19 deaths] received test results for residents, the regulators found, exacerbating the spread of the virus throughout the month of April.” Now more than 60% of the state’s deaths have been in these facilities, over 80% in some counties.
However, we must not forget that as dangerous as COVID-19 is to nursing home residents, it does not have a 100% fatality rate. According to Colorado Public Radio, the state has tested “nearly 1,900 asymptomatic staff and residents at six large elder-care facilities since April 19.”
Yet at the same time, we know that 65% of nursing home residents die every year within a year of admission and 52% within six months. Overall, roughly one-quarter of the approximately 2.8 million annual fatalities in this country occur in a senior care facility. That’s nearly 13,500 a week. We also know that once COVID-19 gets into a nursing home, it’s likely that a majority, if not nearly all of the residents, will test positive. It’s therefore inconceivable that those coding the deaths are not liberally adding in those who died from a stroke, heart attack, or Alzheimer’s (“old age”) simply because they tested positive.
Remember, included in the state’s senior care facility death numbers (colloquially referred to as “nursing home deaths”) are also hospices. The Illinois health director admitted that “if you were in hospice and had already been given a few weeks to live and then you also were found to have COVID, that would be counted as a COVID death.”
As I reported last week, the number of New York long-term care facility deaths that are listed as “presumed” are greater than the number of “confirmed” deaths, yet the presumed numbers are all included in the national tally you see on the news every day.
Also, remember, the presumed numbers are for those who did not test positive. However, there is less focus on those who did test positive, contracted an asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic illness, and sadly, like so many in hospices or nursing homes, passed away from a myriad of other causes. Every one of those people is being listed as a confirmed COVID-19 death!
Thus, at this point, according to the state data, we can say with certainty that at least 40,000 of the 80,000 reported national COVID-19 deaths were recorded among nursing home patients and that a certain number of overall deaths have been inflated, potentially dramatically so in nursing homes. If you take New York City and its surrounding environs plus nursing homes out of the equation, most of the rest of the country experienced a plague less devastating than the 2018 flu season, which killed 60,000. And the overwhelming majority of the remaining casualties had multiple co-morbidities.
The reason our government is not putting out more precise and accurate data is because if it did, it would be a national scandal that we destroyed an entire country for a crisis largely confined to nursing homes. The people would know that the same politicians who spent months locking down every playground for people and in places where there is near-zero threat of death forgot to put the fire out where it was actually raging.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.