Did COVID-19 cause only 6% of coronavirus deaths?

Published: Aug. 31, 2020 at 7:59 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - There’s been plenty of chatter on social media after the CDC released data saying only 6% of COVID-19 deaths were caused by the virus, and the other 94% had other contributing factors that lead to death.

That’s causing many to believe that the virus isn’t so serious.

But local doctors said the data is being misunderstood.

And while it is true that only a fraction of patients died from the disease alone, they said COVID-19 played a role in 100% of those deaths.

“The message that people are taking from it…because I’ve been reading online, they’ll say, ‘Oh, only 6% of people are “real deaths due to COVID-19”’ and that’s just ridiculous,” said Medical Director of Disease Control for the Jefferson County Department of Health, Dr. Wesley Willeford.

“All that means is that…only 6% of the cases of COVID-19 that did not have any other reported comorbidities,” Dr. Willeford said.

Dr. Willeford, said before you jump to conclusions about the data, you must understand many people in The United States have other underlying health conditions.

“Say, for instance, they have a weak heart. They have a weak heart and they’re getting sick with COVID-19 then that means their chances of survival is probably going to be lower. So…people would say, ‘Did they die from COVID-19?’ Well, yeah. COVID-19′s what put their body into a stressed position and caused them to die. You can be unhealthy and still get sick with something else that will hit you,” Dr. Willeford said.

Six in ten Americans have some chronic medical condition and four in ten Americans have two or more chronic medical conditions.

The CDC’s announcement comes as the United States tops 6 million coronavirus cases and more than 183,000 deaths.

But the claim that COVID-19 only killed roughly 9,000 Americans is false.

“I don’t want someone to take from that, ‘Oh, only 6%...this 6% number means that…you know…that people are immune to COVID.’ That’s the wrong message to take because the thing to look at is the fact that you have multiple medical conditions, or one medical condition, can predispose you to a bad outcome with COVID-19,” Dr. Willeford explained.

Doctors have repeatedly said that people with other underlying health conditions are at higher risk of complications and death due to the coronavirus.

Dr. Willeford said that until we have a vaccine, we need to continue to follow the recommended guidelines of wearing face coverings, practicing proper hand hygiene and social distancing especially heading into the Labor Day weekend.

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