Are We Inflating the Numbers on COVID-19?

LOS ANGELES (March 29, 2020) Sailors assigned to the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) treat a patient from Los Angeles medical facilities March 29. Mercy deployed in support of the nation’s COVID-19 response efforts, and will serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals. This allows shore base hospitals to focus their efforts on COVID-19 cases. One of the Department of Defense’s missions is Defense Support of Civil Authorities. DoD is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, as well as state, local and public health authorities in helping protect the health and safety of the American people. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Erwin Jacob Miciano)


There’s a lot of talk going around — from social media to even Fox News and other pundits — that we could be seeing inflated numbers from the COVID-19 deaths because we’re counting anyone who has died while having the novel coronavirus as a COVID-19 death.

It’s raising flags for some people, and there is speculation that we could be inflating the numbers for political reasons.

It was Dr. Birx who first brought up that this was the practice, according to Fox News’ own Brit Hume.

Hume went on Tucker Carlson’s show and expanded on this, with Carlson speculating that there was a political reason for this.

I tend to err on the skeptical side of this, simply because I do believe in Occam’s Razor, even when the corrupt politicians are involved.

One example from someone who was skeptical of the “inflating for political reasons” angle was AIDS, where we count people who die of complications from AIDS as an AIDS death.


The thing that bothers me most about all this talk is that it’s a distraction rather than a helpful discussion. Right now, had people stayed in and kept to themselves earlier than they did — had New York City’s own local government not encouraged people to go out and celebrate holidays — we would not be facing the crisis we are now. By not taking the risks more seriously than we have, we have extended the lifespan of COVID-19 and made it much tougher to fight and much more devastating.

I don’t think that we are overinflating the numbers here. I think the numbers are actually much lower than they should be, and that’s due to asymptomatic people sharing the disease without realizing it, people not going to get tested thinking it’s “just a bad flu,” and other reasons. We are facing a global pandemic, and we haven’t seen the worst of it yet, by all accounts. The peak in virtually every area in the United States is still coming.

So, I don’t see a conspiracy here. I see a distraction. I see people wanting to make excuses for returning to the public space earlier than necessary. I see people who are not taking this seriously. Had we done so, the economy being shut down for as long as it has been and will be would not have happened. We’d see briefer shutdowns in all this, and the peaks would have come and gone already.


Are the numbers being inflated? I don’t know, but I don’t think they are. Regardless, this is a storm we have to weather, and the more we don’t take it seriously, the longer it will ravage the country.


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