By Chris Woodward
According to the CDC, 9,683 people have died in the U.S. with COVID-19 listed as the only cause of death on their death certificate.
"I'm not surprised," says Merrill Matthews, Ph.D. of the Institute for Policy Innovation. "That's been the case for some time. When the CDC tracks out the group that has only COVID-19, it's been a much, much smaller number than the broader attribute of the deaths, people with comorbidities."
That, says Matthews, is one of the interesting things about this information.
"When you're comparing death rates with the United States versus other countries, not every country uses the same method," he explains. "Some of them may be using much more stringent guidelines for whether they call it a COVID-19 death. If we were using much more stringent guidelines, our numbers would be much lower."
Some people are taking this information and saying that concerns about COVID-19 were exaggerated. But Matthews is not ready to go there.
"I don't want to say it's overblown," says Matthews. "I just want to say you want to be familiar with the broader information that the [vast majority of] people who are healthier and get COVID-19 … may have some symptoms, but they probably don't die from it.
"The death rate is really big among older, senior people with comorbidities," he adds, "and [those are] the ones we really want to make sure we're protecting."
In April, Dr. Deborah Birx told reporters at a White House coronavirus task force briefing that people who have died with COVID-19 were being counted as having died from COVID-19.
"Let's say the virus caused you to go to the ICU and then have a heart or kidney problem," Dr. Deborah Birx said. "Some countries are recording that as a heart issue or a kidney issue, and not a COVID-19 death, (but) we are counting that as a COVID-19 death."
Medical professionals are divided as to whether that is the best practice.