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VERIFY: No, the CDC did not say the number of COVID-19 victims who actually died from the virus is much lower than originally reported

The facts are that 94 percent of people had a least one other factor contributing to their death, and that is how COVID-19 generally works.

INDIANAPOLIS —

QUESTION

Did the CDC quietly admit that the number of people who have died from COVID-19 is actually much less than originally reported?

ANSWER

No, it is false to suggest the CDC now says fewer people have died from COVID-19 than the government’s statistics show.

SOURCE

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

THE FACTS

Over the weekend, many Facebook and Twitter users saw claims that the CDC quietly admitted only 6 percent of all people recorded as dying from COVID-19 actually died from COVID. That claim was circulated widely by supporters of a group that spreads debunked conspiracy theories on the internet, and it picked up more traction when the president re-tweeted the claim Sunday morning.

VERIFY fact checked the claim by going straight to the CDC's website, which does state for 6 percent of COVID deaths reported to the CDC, "COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned" on the deceased person's death certificate.

But that is very different from saying only 6 percent of people listed as COVID-19 victims "actually died" from the virus. It just means the other 94 percent of people had a least one other factor contributing to their death, and that is how COVID-19 generally works. In most cases, the virus does not kill healthy people. Instead, it worsens pre-existing health conditions people already have. For example, someone with obesity or asthma could live for years but die very quickly after contracting the coronavirus.

The contributing factors on the death certificate do not have to be pre-existing conditions. For example, fourth on the list of comorbidities for COVID-19 deaths is "respiratory failure."

The CDC lists respiratory failure as one of the critical, often fatal symptoms of COVID-19. If COVID-19 caused someone to have respiratory failure and die, their death certificate would show both respiratory failure and COVID-19.

Some variations of the social media post state “This week the CDC quietly updated the Covid number to admit that only 6 percent of all the 161,392 deaths recorded actually died solely from COVID.” It is more accurate to say the CDC is reporting that only 6 percent of COVID-19 victims died “solely” from COVID, but it is misleading to suggest the information is new, that it was recently added this week, that it was done quietly or that the CDC admitted the information.

An archive search by the 13News VERIFY team shows the CDC has publicly disclosed comorbidity information since early May. Nearly four months ago, the CDC starting publishing the number of COVID-related deaths that included no other medical issues. On May 15, for example, the CDC website states “For 7 percent 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 2.5 additional conditions or causes per death.”

So claiming the CDC says only 6 percent of COVID-19 victims actually died from COVID is misleading and false. Twitter took down the tweet earlier Monday, and the president eventually deleted his message about eight hours after it was originally re-tweeted.

QUESTION

Is it true that the United States comprises 5 percent of the world’s population but approximately 25 percent of the worlds COVID-19 deaths?

ANSWER

The statistics in that claim are relatively close to accurate, but off by roughly 14 percent.

SOURCE

The U.S. Census Bureau’s U.S. and World Population Clock and the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

THE FACTS

The Census Bureau said as of Aug. 31, about 330,213,000 people live in the United States, and the worldwide population is approximately 7,677,097,000. That means the U.S. accounts for roughly 4.3 percent of the world’s population.

As far as COVID-19 deaths, Johns Hopkins University has been tracking those closely. Its Coronavirus Resource Center reports nearly 846,985 total COVID-related deaths worldwide as of Monday morning, with 183,083 of those here in the U.S. That translates as the U.S. accounting for 21.6 percent of all coronavirus cases in the world.

So the U.S. represents a little over 4 percent of the world’s population and has about 22 percent of all COVID-19 cases.

If you see something online that sounds odd or hard to believe, or if you hear information that you’d like us to confirm, we’ll fact check it for you. Send 13News your question to verify@wthr.com.