Only 6% of COVID-19 deaths have it listed as the only cause, but there’s more

Reporter: Veronica Marshall
Published: Updated:
MC ALLEN, TEXAS-July 20, 2020-Dozens of nurses, staff and visiting, treats patients at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg, Texas, where hospitalizations and deaths have spiked this month. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly through the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where people of all ages are getting infecting at family gatherings. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images) via CNN.

New updated CDC data says other health issues were listed on 94% of COVID-19 death certificates, and only 6% only listed COVID-19.

That information is leading some to suspect that if you don’t have an underlying condition, your chances of dying from the virus drop to just 6%.

But researchers say that’s not actually the case.

“The numbers are important, but we always need to understand where those numbers come from and what was that entire process that led to that number being what it is,” says Dr. Stephen Kissler, with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “There’s this sort of throw away line that says, ‘For 6% of these, COVID was the only thing marked on there. But for the rest of them, they had these other conditions.’ That has been pulled out and expanded and I think that there has been a lot of significance put into that, that’s both unnecessary and a lot of the times – inaccurate.”

Kissler says when other conditions are listed on death certificates, it’s the medical staff’s way of being accurate, not implying that the conditions contributed to the person’s death.

“When we think of comorbidities, we think of heart disease and diabetes. But what the comorbidities here mean is basically that there are additional diagnoses that the person had,” he says. “What we’re seeing here is basically doctors being thorough to give a precise definition of what conditions a person had when they passed away.”

Kissler adds that some of the underlying conditions listed on the death certificates were also created by the virus itself.

This means people who were otherwise healthy developed COVID-19, and then developed new health issues as well — all of which were listed on their death certificates.

“Many of the conditions that are listed in the table the CDC produced, where there are these additional conditions associated with COVID, are in fact things that COVID can cause,” he says.

And the CDC backs that up, pointing out in an email that some underlying conditions can be a direct result of COVID-19, like pneumonia and respiratory failure.

So keep your guard up and your mask on, because the coronavirus can strike even the most healthy of us and sometimes kill.

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