The Standard for Discussing COVID Deaths Suddenly Changes

CHRIS USHER

Yesterday, news broke that Gen. Colin Powell had died after contracting COVID-19. The former Bush official and former Republican was 84-years-old. He was also undergoing treatment for cancer, though, the treatment itself was said to have been going well until he caught the coronavirus.

Powell was also fully vaccinated, and that has represented an inconvenient reality for many people. As I’ll explain later, I’m not sure why.

But what was so interesting to me is how quickly the standards shifted in regards to how you are supposed to discuss people who die of COVID. For the better part of two years, the predominant assertion has been that if someone dies with COVID, they died of COVID. People were called conspiracy theorists for daring to suggest that many deaths actually occurred because of pre-existing conditions.

Yet, all of the sudden, it is now required to mention that Powell had cancer and was 84-years-old when talking about his death. Weird, right?

Here’s the thing. I’m not at all against providing full context when people die of COVID. Powell did have cancer, and it is likely that his system was immunocompromised enough to make the vaccine largely ineffective. He was also really old. Along with obesity, that is the top comorbidity that leads to COVID deaths. Heck, I actually think it’s a great thing to be honest with people about what groups bear the highest risk from the coronavirus. Rhetorically pretending that a 90-year-old with weight problems bears the same risk as a 25-year-old in good shape has always been misleading and dumb.

Still, why was providing such context berated prior to Powell’s death? He still died of COVID, right? Yes, he had comorbidities that complicated any possible recovery, but so did most people who have died of COVID throughout the pandemic. If you were to go through the death rolls, you’d almost certainly find hundreds of thousands of cases where the deceased would likely not have died were it not for a pre-existing condition.

Yet, because our society at large has this obsession with presenting the vaccines as absolutely perfect, you get these shifting standards that do nothing but perpetuate inconsistency. The vaccines are not foolproof. It should not be controversial to admit that, and doing so does not diminish the fact that they do generally provide great protection against serious illness and death.

As I’ve said before, people value honesty. It only creates more hesitancy when the media and others rush to change the rules the moment something doesn’t fit their narrative.