In a Johns Hopkins News-Letter dated November 22, 2020, “Genevieve Briand, assistant program director of the Applied Economics master’s degree program at Hopkins, critically analyzed the effect of COVID-19 on U.S. deaths using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”
She found that there was zero increase in deaths across the United States between 2018 and 2020. She determined that “the percentages of deaths among all age groups remain relatively the same.” She thus concluded that COVID-19 “has relatively no effect on deaths in the United States.”
Briand was puzzled because the CDC had reported an increase in deaths due to solely to COVID-19. Thus, there should have been an increase in total deaths reported to the CDC by approximately 267,000. But there was no such increase.
What could be the explanation? When Briand examined the death statistics from the CDC, she made the disturbing discovery that deaths from heart disease, respiratory disease, influenza, and pneumonia dropped during the COVID-19 outbreak. She saw in the statistics that deaths were being shifted from those other categories to COVID-19. “Briand believes that deaths due to heart diseases, respiratory diseases, influenza and pneumonia may instead be recategorized as being due to COVID-19.” Yanni Gu, A closer look at U.S. deaths due to COVID-19, Johns Hopkins News-Letter, November 22, 2020, https://web.archive.org/
Well, the powers that be could not allow Briand’s article to reveal that truth. And so the article was retracted. The reason given was that Johns Hopkins was concerned that the article “has been used to support dangerous inaccuracies that minimize the impact of the pandemic.”
But in the retraction notice, Johns Hopkins actually acknowledged the principal finding made by Briand, that the number of deaths due to heart diseases, respiratory diseases, influenza and pneumonia had been shifted to the COVID-19 list of deaths. The retraction states that “Briand also claimed in her analysis that deaths due to heart diseases, respiratory diseases, influenza and pneumonia may be incorrectly categorized as COVID-19-related deaths. However, COVID-19 disproportionately affects those with preexisting conditions, so those with those underlying conditions are statistically more likely to be severely affected and die from the virus.”
Notice that the retraction does not dispute Briand’s finding, but rather tries to explain it as being caused by the fact that “those with those underlying conditions are statistically more likely to be severely affected and die from the virus.” What the retraction did not say is that the COVID-19 death statistics from the CDC list those who die “with” COVID-19 and not necessarily those who die “from” COVID-19.
Briand based her conclusions on the official CDC reports. The retraction pulled a switch and argued against Briand by citing to a private website, Our Wolrd in Data, that does not use the statistical methodology of the CDC.
Indeed, it appears that Our World in Data simply added the CDC announced COVID-19 deaths to all other deaths reported by the CDC. Notably, there is no breakdown of deaths by cause on that page of Our World in Data. There is just the raw total deaths from all causes. It seems that Our World in Data Simply added the reported COVID-19 deaths to that statistic, which had the effect of double-counting the COIVD-19 deaths.
The Johns Hopkins retraction statement cites to the alternative website to make the claim that there was in fact a spike in deaths due to COVID-19. When the retraction statement cites back again to the CDC statistics, it does so to make the claim that “[a]ccording to the CDC, there have been almost 300,000 excess deaths due to COVID-19.” It then provides a link to the CDC website that simply announces the COVID-19 deaths. Nowhere on the CDC page is the COVID-19 death statistic reported as “excess deaths due to COVID-19” as claimed by the Johns Hopkins retraction statement. Indeed, the Johns Hopkins retraction statement is a false statement. The CDC web page cited by the Johns Hopkins retraction statement simply reports “COVID-19 Cases and Deaths.”
Indeed, the COVID-19 death statistic cited by the Johns Hopkins retraction statement is the very statistic that Briand analyzed when determining that those numbers were borrowed from people dying of comorbidities of heart disease, respiratory disease, influenza, and pneumonia. Indeed, the CDC acknowledges that 94% of all COVID-19 deaths are of people with at least 2.5 comorbidities.
The CDC reveals that “[h]igh blood pressure [i.e., hypertension] was a primary or contributing cause of death in 2017 for more than 472,000 people in the United States.” Indeed, hypertension and stroke are the two leading causes of death in the U.S. Furthermore, according to the CDC, diabetes is the seventh-ranked cause of death in the United States. In 2017, 83,564 people in the U.S. died of diabetes. Yet, let a diabetic or someone with high blood pressure come down with COVID-19 and presto-chango they are said to have died of COVID-19 with their hypertension and diabetes being relegated to a comorbidity.
The Johns Hopkins retraction statement admits that “those with those underlying conditions are statistically more likely to be severely affected and die from the virus.” There is agreement between Briand and the retraction that people who are reported as dying of COVID-19 by the CDC are actually people who died “with” COVID-19 and not necessarily dying “from” COVID-19. Indeed, the CDC cleverly announces their COVID-19 death statistics without ever using the word “deaths from COVID-19.” They intend to give the impression that people died “from” COVID-19 but the CDC never actually says that the persons listed died “from” COVID-19. The CDC simply announces the statistics as “COVID-19 Cases and Deaths.” Thus the CDC is simply reporting those who are presumed to have COVID-19 or test positive for COVID-19 as a “case.” And those who die “with” COVID-19 as a COVID-19 death even though they likely did not die “from” COVID-19.
The Johns Hopkins retraction is attempting to give the false impression that the COVID-19 deaths reported by the CDC are of people who died “from” COVID-19. That is certainly what the CDC is implying, but it is not what the CDC is reporting. The CDC is simply reporting deaths of people who allegedly died “with” COVID-19. The CDC acknowledges that of those who died “with” COIVD-19, approximately 94% of them died with an average of 2.5 comorbidities.