Please Stop Spreading False Information About COVID-19

Falsehoods meant to downplay the seriousness of COVID-19 (click for an enlarged image)
On Saturday, I received the image on the left from a well-meaning individual. She wanted me to see that we have been fooled regarding the severity of the virus that causes COVID-19. By Sunday, this image (or one like it) was all over my Facebook feed. Please understand that the statement starts out as completely false and then uses true statements to imply something else that is completely false. Unfortunately, it tends to resonate with people who do not understand medical science and who have not been personally affected by the pandemic. As I watched this lie literally spread around the world, I couldn’t help but think of Jonathan Swift’s famous statement1

Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it.

Here is my attempt to get the truth to come limping after this falsehood.

Let’s start with the first lie. The CDC has not “quietly updated” the numbers to “admit” something. The CDC has been regularly updating the numbers in the same place since the pandemic began. In addition, they have been saying that 94% of COVID-19 deaths were in patients with underlying conditions since at least April 3rd. That’s nothing new to anyone who has done even a little investigation into the matter.

More importantly, this image is meant to imply that COVID-19 is not dangerous because the vast majority of people who die from it have some other illness. Once again, that is simply 100% false. If you look at the underlying conditions that are included in the 94% (table 3 in the link above), you find things like high blood pressure (hypertensive diseases), diabetes, obesity, etc. The image tries to categorize them as “serious illnesses,” and depending on the person, they might be. However, they are present in a large percentage of the population. 45 percent of adults in the U.S. have a hypertensive disease, 10 percent of the U.S. population have diabetes, and 42 percent have obesity. Thus, a huge number of people in the U.S. have at least one of the “serious illnesses” that make you likely to die from COVID-19. In other words, there are many, many people at risk of death from COVID-19.

But how can we say that these people died of COVID-19 when they had some other condition? Because most of these conditions are completely treatable and will not generally kill a person. However, when that person gets an infection, the underlying condition makes it harder for his or her body to fight off the infection, leading to death. The more serious the infection, the more likely the person is to die. In fact, the majority of people who die of an infection like influenza, pneumonia, tuberculosis, etc. have an underlying condition that makes it more difficult for them to fight off the infection. Thus, it is not even remotely unusual that 94% of people who die from COVID-19 had one or more underlying conditions. It is common for many serious infectious diseases, especially in the developed world.

There is one more issue in the image above that I must address. It says that the overwhelming majority of people who died from COVID-19 were of advanced age. That’s true, but it’s true for all deaths in the developed world, not just COVID-19 deaths. Indeed, a recent study compared the ages of people who died from COVID-19 to those who died from all causes. Guess what? They were quite similar:

In fact, the age distribution of deaths attributed to COVID-19 is quite similar to that of all-cause mortality, which tends to increase by about 10% every year of age after age 30 y.

We don’t know a lot about COVID-19, and there is no way to scientifically state the best cause of action against the disease at this time. However, we do know that it is a very serious disease, and it is being downplayed by some using falsehoods like the image above. Please stop the misinformation! If you want to share something about COVID-19, at least make sure it doesn’t communicate something blatantly false, like the image above does.

ADDENDUM (added 9/4/2020): Someone on a friend’s Facebook feed wrote an incredibly insightful comment that I must share. She said that if you really think that the only COVID-19 deaths are the ones that had COVID-19 as the sole cause, then you must think that AIDS has a mortality rate of zero!

REFERENCES

1. The Examiner, Number 15 November 2 to November 9, 1710, (Article by Jonathan Swift), Page 2, Column 1, Printed for John Morphew, near Stationers-Hall, London.
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36 thoughts on “Please Stop Spreading False Information About COVID-19”

  1. Hi Dr. Wile, Thank you so much for this post. I tried not to give this info graphic much thought while it was circulating on the web, but then I noticed two news outlets (one was our local news and the other was a online news magazine) cover it and I became pretty confused. I usually try to overlook stuff like this because Covid info on social media is usually false. When the news outlets were covering it, I was beginning to wonder if it did have validity. I appreciate your clarification. Thanks!

  2. It’s the sensationalism that people refer to with their responses to such data. The media and democrats overplayed the danger and how many people the China virus effectively kills. It is known that hospitals have been pushed to declare all deaths by covid even if that person was practically already dying of cancer and of many others diseases. This has been confirmed by many doctors and nurses.
    Also, if you take away the thousands of deaths caused by the absurd ordinances for nursing homes for example in many democrat States, those number would have been further reduced.
    If you take away the many that could have been saved, as also many doctors confirmed, by giving hydroxychloroquine, zinc and Azithromycin early in their symptoms then the numbers of deaths would have been further reduced yet.
    People sense, or better, know that there is a manipulation of the disease for an “agenda” and thus made up to be more dangerous and for a larger group of people than what it actually is.

    1. You said: “It is known that hospitals have been pushed to declare all deaths by covid even if that person was practically already dying of cancer and of many others diseases. This has been confirmed by many doctors and nurses.”

      If this has been confirmed by “many” doctors and nurses, then I expect you have several reliable sources. Please post them here. Otherwise I’m not believing that hospitals are being “pushed” to falsify the data.

      1. Oh yes. Hospitals, public health, the CDC, and WHO have massive incentives to falsify the data. And yes, I know this first hand. It was very, very troubling when I questioned our county public health dept 6 months ago. Since then I’ve studied this in depth and can say with certainty that the destruction of millions of lives by lockdowns, business closures, and the plague of suicides, child abuse, missed hospitalizations and the resultant death toll (far, far more than the true Covid death toll) has been totally unnecessary. Nuremberg style trials are in order, IMO.

        1. You put “md” after your name; I assume that means you are announcing that you are a medical doctor. Where do you work and what is your specialty? It’s Ok if you want to remain anonymous but in that case I will simply discount everything you say. Dr. Wile is well known and I have met him in person multiple times, so I give him much more credence than strangers on the Internet.

          You said “Hospitals, public health, the CDC, and WHO have massive incentives to falsify the data.”

          Name those incentives please. Please be very specific, not vague nor conspiratorial.

          I hope that at the “Nuremburg style trials” you are calling for there would be 1) presumption of innocence and 2) high standards of evidence. I’m not seeing anything like that right now in the accusations being flung around the Internet. BTW the Nuremburg trials were for the Nazis responsible the Jewish holocaust. Because you took it to that level of extreme rhetoric now I trust you even less. I’m still listening, but you’re going to have to bring even more hard, verifiable evidence to the table before I will believe you.

        1. But note that the article provides no evidence that it is actually happening. It simply indicates that hospitals get more money for COVID-19 cases. In fact, he says, “Hospital administrators might well want to see COVID-19 attached to a discharge summary or a death certificate.” That isn’t evidence. It’s speculation. Later on, he says he “doesn’t think physicians are ‘gaming the system’ so much as other ‘players,’ such as hospital administrators, who he said may pressure physicians to cite all diagnoses, including ‘probable’ COVID-19, on discharge papers or death certificates to get the higher Medicare allocation allowed under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.” Once again, the fact that one person thinks hospital adminsitrators may pressure doctors is not evidence. It is sheer speculation.

          Now please note that I do think the COVID-19 deaths are overcounted, specifically for this reason. However, I would never accuse physicians of widespread unethical behavior without documentation. Also, the effect is probably not large, because the COVID-19 deaths track VERY WELL with the excess deaths we see for 2020. They even have the same time profile as the COVID-19 deaths. I think tracking excess deaths is tricky, so there are probably a lot of errors. However, the fact that they track so well indicates that overall, the counts are mostly legitimate.

    2. This is the kind of info that Dr. Wile, for some reason, does not discuss.
      I’m an intensive care doc and director at a large hosp. system. I am in close contact with county public health and administrators throughout the USA. I also studied and conducted research in virology at the graduate level.
      Something was very fishy and this has been obvious to many of my colleagues from the very beginning of this national travesty.

  3. “Thus, a huge number of people in the U.S. have at least one of the “serious illnesses” that make you likely to die from COVID-19.”

    LIKELY to die from COVID? Get a grip. This is the same sensationalism you are now downplaying…

    Likely to die… please.

    1. It is not sensationalism. As the data clearly show, an underlying condition makes you more likely to die from COVID-19. A huge number of people have those underlying conditions, so a huge number of people are likely to die from COVID-19. I would say that 94% of 183,000 is a huge number!

      1. Dr. Wile, Can you look into the information, as you have a good grasp for this, on the non covid death toll that is happening because of the lockdowns? Even the WHO stated suicides are up. I think the handling of the pandemic now, after we have flattened the curve is tragic. Isolation is a slow killer.

  4. Thank you for a wonderful article! I saw that image and had wondered about it.
    I am still not understanding something though, with regards to the numbers.

    You said:
    “But how can we say that these people died of COVID-19 when they had some other condition? Because most of these conditions are completely treatable and will not generally kill a person.”

    So when I look at table 3 in the link that you provided, it lists lung/respiratory diseases as well as heart/circulation diseases as the top co-mordities – however we know in the US in any given year that someone dies from a respiratory/lung disease every few minutes… and almost 700,000 die from heart/circulation diseases. How did you come to the conclusion that these conditions are completely treatable and will not generally kill a person? Do we have the data to make that definitive conclusion?

    Because of the fact that deaths are being recorded differently than they usually are (ie if someone died from the flu who has COPD -normally the primary health issue of COPD would have been labeled as the cause of death) – do we have the data available to determine whether MORE people died with COPD (as an example) this year than previous years (during the same period)?

    Thanks in advance for helping me understand!

    1. Note that I said “most.” Certainly, some of the underlying conditions are deadly. However, things like obesity, diabetes, etc., are not. Even a lot of respiratory and heart conditions are not deadly if they are being managed. However, when the body becomes infected with a virulent virus, those conditions that can be managed make the virus life-threatening. That’s the point. If COVID-19 is on the death certificate, it was a contributing factor, assuming the reporting institution is behaving ethically.

      1. Thank you for the response!

        Yes, I did note that you had said “most”…. but even something like diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the USA – many of which I am sure were due to complications with things like the flu in preceding years even though “flu” would not have been captured as a cause of death. Because of the way the deaths were reported this year – is there an accurate way to compare these stats?

        1. I don’t think there is an accurate way to compare the stats, but I don’t think that’s necessary to understand that COVID-19 is a deadly disease. After all, people who have diabetes and are listed as COVID-19 deaths are dying of COVID-19 symptoms (difficulty breathing, runaway inflammation, etc.). If someone with diabetes dies and has flu-like symptoms, the flu will be listed as at least a partial cause of death. Sure, there could be some flu-induced deaths that aren’t captured, so the numbers may not be directly comparable, but that doesn’t mean the COVID-19 deaths are wrong.

  5. There is data to show that a high percentage of people who die have these underlying conditions, but do we have any data that show what percentage of people who have these underlying conditions along with COVID-19 die vs those with the same conditions who recover, and conversely the same for those without the underlying conditions?

  6. I agree that we must be careful with conclusions from the data. However, one line in the table says that approximately 5,000 people died from accidental or intentional injury, poisoning, etc., and yet they are still listed in the overall COVID numbers.

    I do not think that people should be saying, “see, there is no pandemic” based on the 6% number. On the other hand, I do have to question why people who have died from accidents, etc. would be listed in the CDC’s overall number, when clearly those people would have died “with,” and not “from” COVID-19.

    Am I missing something?

    And, by extension, if the CDC counts those cases as official COVID-19 deaths, how many other deaths have been “with” not “from?”

    I’m not trying to be argumentative at all. Just curious if I’m missing something on this. And I’m also frustrated with how quickly people jump to conclusions on what these data mean.

    1. Remember, a challenged immune system cannot fight off infections well. So, if a person has an injury, poisoining, etc., his or her body will be working to fix those problems and will have less energy to fight off an infection. Thus, if a person breaks a leg and also has COVID-19, it is possible the person would have survived either problem on its own, but both together were too much.

      We have no way of medically knowing what would have happened if the person didn’t have COVID-19. However, people can survive unintentional accidents, poisonings, etc. If they have COVID-19 in addition and end up dying, it only makes sense that COVID-19 at least contributed to the death.

  7. Wonderful – thank you so much for your response and helping me to understand the numbers that I am looking at. Greatly appreciated!

  8. I find it sad that people are so desperate to cling to their fairy tales that when you post facts about misinformation, they swoop in with MORE misinformation they “heard” or saw on YouTube. You’re a doctor. Others have expertise in whatever they do. Why do they feel so emboldened because of something they saw on a Tweet, they feel they have to share it and downplay a killer virus? China and other countries are accused of downplaying this by the very people seeking to do so now.

    1. I find it pathetic when people say that YouTube cannot be a valid form of information source. So, in other words, we should believe what CNN or the other corrupt media says, which has amply proven to be now just the mouthpiece of the democrat party?
      If on YouTube is a doctor from Yale or Harvard etc with forty years of experience in the field that is giving his opinion on the matter, hows that a bad source of information? Just because it comes not from your “approved” CHANNEL is not good?
      By stating that you are either disingenuous or just indoctrinated by the leftist media and academia controlling society, especially the last few decades. It’s an ideology they are teaching. It’s a totalitarian-like indoctrination which includes the pseudoscience of evolutionism.

      1. And the “Experts” have been so wrong from the beginning. The fear tactics used to keep the population from living is what drives them.
        From Dr. Jordan Peterson: Tyranny grows slowly, and asks us to retreat in comparatively tiny steps at a time. But each retreat increases the possibility of the next retreat. Each betrayal of conscience, each act of silence (despite the felt resentment), and each rationalization weakens resistance and increases the probability of the next tyrannical move forward. This is particularly the case when a certain percentage of those pushing forward truly delight in the irresponsible power they have now been granted—and such people are always to be found. Better to stand forward, awake, when the costs are relatively low—and, perhaps, when the potential rewards have not yet vanished. Better to stand forward before the ability to do so has been irretrievably compromised. This is the terrible lesson of the Holocaust and, I would say, of all the twentieth-century tyrannies.

        How are men who were by all means ordinary and decent citizens of their type (or at least no worse than others, and somewhat randomly selected) transformed into the heartless wolves of destruction who obeyed the terrible orders they were delivered? The answer is not pretty. It’s far too personal, for those who think clearly and realistically while they read and reflect. It’s far too indicative of the terrible dangers of mere order, and the loss of soul and spirit that is the price for sacrificing conscience to the state. It’s far too frightening to consider the terrible places at which it is possible to arrive following one careless and willfully blind step at a time. But it’s necessary to contemplate, if we are to stop, once and for all, the catastrophe of the unconscionable social conformity that accompanies the sacrifice of the still small voice.

        There are consequences for following the rules, as this sequence of stories clearly relates. There are consequences to adhering to the order established by social consensus when the social consensus and, therefore, the order, has become pathological.

  9. By the time I saw this post, I had already had several people try to tell me that the CDC admitted that only 1 out of ten covid deaths were legit. Thanks for your article, Dr. Wile!

  10. I may be late to the party, but there are a couple of points that I think warrant mention: Firstly, all those old, sick people that some seem to consider worthless because “they were going to die soon, anyway” are real people. Nobody can claim to be the arbiter of the value of those lives. Maybe they had a day, maybe they had a few decades, but if the China Virus killed them or contributed to them dying even one second sooner, it was covid-19 that killed them. And there is no way to tell just how long they might have lived for the most part, or whether a treatment for what ever ailed them might have become available. Secondly, let’s compare apples to apples. Since so many people simplistically compare covid-19 to the common flu, how about we ask the question “how many people that die from the flu die solely from the flu?” My guess would be “not very many.” Is it even 6%? Consider this stat: during the Spanish Flu pandemic a century ago there were 75,000 (ish) flu deaths in the first six months (in the US). That was all flu deaths, not just Spanish Flu, and was only 12,000 more than the 63,000 deaths from the flu for the same period just a few years prior. They were not counting separately then, as we are now, so the distribution is unclear. But even if you count all those deaths as Spanish Flu, we are still way “ahead.” That’s US stats – the rest of the world fared less well, overall. Granted, the Spanish Flu did most of its killing in the second wave and we hopefully don’t get that with this virus. But why take chances and why allow the people to spread dangerous misinformation? Thanks for speaking up, Jay!

    1. Thanks for your response! I have been saying this all along to no avail. As a Pro-Life Christian I have been frustrated by the amount of fellow Christians down playing lives lost to go along with their conspiracy theories.

  11. Brenda, thank you for posting the link to the Fact Checking article. It’s helpful to the discussion to have a specific claim and evidence to discuss.

    You noted that the fact checking article rated the claim as True. But exactly what did they say is true? They said: “We rate the claim that hospitals get paid more if patients are listed as COVID-19 and on ventilators as TRUE.”

    Which totally makes sense. COVID-19 is dangerous and highly contagious, requiring costly safety measures. And keeping people alive on ventilators is labor intensive which also costs money. We don’t expect nurses to work long, hard shifts for free. So it’s a good thing these cases receive more money.

    Now, is that an incentive for hospitals to lie about COVID-19 diagnosis? It’s not any more of an incentive than it would be for them to lie about other diagnosis like cancer, if they could bill higher for it. I would only expect rogue administrators to do that kind of thing who were already dishonest. Maybe an already dishonest administrator might take advantage of a large influx of COVID-19 cases to “pad” the number of cases a bit, hoping it would go unnoticed. Maybe. But that’s pure speculation. Normal auditing should be done to make sure government funds are not misused. However I’m not yet seeing evidence of a widespread conspiracy to inflate the number of COVID-19 cases.

  12. Way too many died not only for the atrocious ordinances of democrat governors to force nursing homes for example to accept covid infected patients but also for denying them therapeutics claimed by hundreds of doctors to have been effective on thousands of patients.
    It’s a up to you to choose or not to close your eyes and not see the huge exploitation of covid for a specific “agenda.”
    And beyond that, as data already analyzed by some scientists confirms, perhaps even the virus itself has been artificially created, which will make a strong case, if that true, to have been deliberately allowed to spread.

  13. Hello Dr. Jay! How are you?

    Is it true that wearing mask for a prolonged period of time causes breathing-related problems(like some people claims things like: “I can’t breath properly”)? Or is it just a psychological effect?(maybe you already answered this topic, but I missed it completely)

    I ask this because I watch a video showing that, if you try to blow out a lighter while using a mask, it is pretty difficult to blow it out; then, if I’m not missing anything, the masks really makes it harder to breathe.

    God Enlighten you!

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