In February 2020, the first American died from COVID-19, according to health officials. In the nearly three years since, there have been 1,095,149 COVID-19 deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, a prominent public health expert warns that officials have been overcounting COVID-19 deaths.
Leana Wen is an emergency physician, CNN medical analyst, Washington Post contributor, and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. Wen previously served as a global health fellow at the World Health Organization and as the president of Planned Parenthood.
Wen wasn’t only a talking head on cable TV. Politico reported in April, “Wen also has some direct lines into the White House as part of a group of health experts who have received private briefings on Covid policy throughout the pandemic.”
The White House has cited Wen’s opinions about coronavirus in the past.
Wen rose to fame during the COVID-19 pandemic. The medical pundit made a name for herself by preaching hardline proposals such as not permitting unvaccinated Americans to travel. Wen urged President Joe Biden to enact draconian measures against unvaccinated individuals.
In September 2021, she proposed that anyone not vaccinated for COVID-19 should be barred from interstate travel, businesses should not serve the unvaccinated, called for mandating every American over the age of 12 to be vaccinated, and require all U.S. residents have a national proof of vaccination.
At the same time, Wen demonized unvaccinated Americans — comparing them to drunk drivers.
Last January, Wen advocated for universal masking regardless of vaccination status. She even championed wearing two face masks at the same time.
“Everyone should be wearing at least a three-ply surgical mask — a cloth mask on top can help with fit,” Wen stated.
However, Wen said in December 2021, “Cloth masks are little more than facial decorations. There’s no place for them in light of Omicron.”
On Friday, Wen arrived to a conclusion regarding COVID deaths that has been proposed by others years ago.
Wen penned an opinion piece in the Washington Post titled: “We are overcounting covid deaths and hospitalizations. That’s a problem.”
In the article, Wen asked a question that conservatives have been asking since near the beginning of the pandemic: “But are these Americans dying from covid or with covid?”
Wen proposed, “Understanding this distinction is crucial to putting the continuing toll of the coronavirus into perspective. Determining how likely an infection will result in hospitalization or death helps people weigh their own risk. It also enables health officials to assess when vaccine effectiveness wanes and future rounds of boosters are needed.”
Shira Doron — the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine health system — told Wen that “some days” only 10% of those hospitalized at the Tufts Medical Center were there because of COVID-19 illness.
Robin Dretler — an attending physician at Emory Decatur Hospital and the former president of Georgia’s chapter of Infectious Diseases Society of America — estimates that 90% of the patients at his hospital diagnosed with COVID-19 are actually in the hospital for another illness.
“Since every hospitalized patient gets tested for covid, many are incidentally positive,” Dretler said.
Dretler added, “People who have very low white blood cell counts from chemotherapy might be admitted because of bacterial pneumonia or foot gangrene. They may also have covid, but covid is not the main reason why they’re so sick.”
Wen suggested, “A gunshot victim or someone who had a heart attack, for example, could test positive for the virus, but the infection has no bearing on why they sought medical care.”
“If these patients die, covid might get added to their death certificate along with the other diagnoses,” Wen wrote. “But the coronavirus was not the primary contributor to their death and often played no role at all.”
However, this concept of labeling COVID-19 deaths as something completely irrelevant is nothing new.
In July 2020, TheBlaze reported how deaths in Florida were wrongly attributed to COVID-19. A 60-year-old Palm Beach County man who died from a gunshot wound to the head was categorized as a COVID-19 death. The investigative team at WPEC-TV found that a “90-year-old man who fell and died from complications of a hip fracture” and “a 77-year-old woman who died of Parkinson’s disease” were labeled as COVID-19 deaths.
In the same month, a man in his 20s was listed as a COVID-19 death despite dying in a motorcycle crash.
In November 2020, a 51-year-old Croatian man who died after falling off a 10-foot ladder was listed as a COVID-19 fatality.
In August 2020, TheBlaze senior editor Daniel Horowitz exposed how COVID-19 deaths were overcounted in Maricopa County, Arizona.
In fact, the CDC previously admitted that only a small percentage of COVID-19 deaths were solely from coronavirus. TheBlaze cited the CDC in August 2020, “For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned. For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death.”
Doron warned, “Overcounting covid deaths undermines people’s sense of security and the efficacy of vaccines.”
Wen concluded, “Most importantly, knowing who exactly is dying from covid can help us identify who is truly vulnerable. These are the patients we need to protect through better vaccines and treatments.”
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