We’ve all questioned the official coronavirus death tolls, hearing anecdotal stories of people who were on hospice but tested positive for Wuhan flu before they died being counted as deaths from coronavirus. And, of course, as my colleague Streiff reported, we know that New York State presumptively added thousands of deaths to its coronavirus death tolls.
Today, we have a new one. In Ventura County, California (my home county) a 37-year-old who died of a drug overdose was counted in the county’s official coronavirus death toll. To the county’s credit, they didn’t attempt to hide it. The announcement was made on the county’s official Facebook page:
After listing the day’s tallies, a clarifying note was added:
“Unfortunately, a 37-year-old male died as the result of a drug overdose with COVID-19 infection as a significant comorbidity and contributing condition.”
It’s not unusual for a contributing condition or significant comorbidity, such as cancer or diabetes, to be considered someone’s actual cause of death. For example, my father’s immediate cause of death was a heart failure, but that heart failure came about after leukemia ravaged his body. With Wuhan coronavirus or seasonal influenza deaths, pneumonia can be the immediate cause of death but one would probably refer to the actual cause of death as influenza-related pneumonia or some such terminology. For the government to refer to someone whom the county admits died as the result of a drug overdose as a coronavirus casualty, though, is misleading at best.
Ventura County, northwest of Los Angeles, is hardly a coronavirus hotspot anyway. The screenshot above from April 23 shows 16 deaths; as of April 27 that number had increased to 17. The rate of doubling in the county is now at 30.3 days, yet Gov. Gavin Newsom has threatened “aggressive” measures against beachgoers in the county and local police forced senior citizens at a local beach out of their beach chairs over the weekend. But I digress.
Regarding the man whose overdose death is counted in coronavirus fatality statistics, some county residents in the Facebook comments section (I know, I know), quickly jumped on the “blame the ‘Rona anyway” bandwagon, inferring that the man “killed himself because he had coronavirus.” Studies to this point have shown that men are much more likely to die of the Chinese Bat Flu than women, but for a 37-year-old man to die simply of coronavirus is not likely. Now, if the man was a long-time drug addict whose lungs were ruined or had other significant pre-existing health conditions his chances of dying would be much higher, but we just don’t have that information. We don’t even know if he was homeless or had recently been released from jail.
Our data would be so much more reliable if there was a separate statistic for people who died of an unrelated cause but had also tested positive for coronavirus.