FULL CLAIM: “On Sunday CDC Director Rochelle Walensky finally admitted that ‘many, many hospitals’ were counting COVID deaths to include cases that were not COVID deaths” ; “CDC Director Finally Admits that COVID Cases are Hugely Over-Counted — Just as Gateway Pundit and Donald Trump Reported in August”
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than 600,000 deaths in the U.S. and 3.4 million deaths worldwide as of 19 May 2021. Although the excess mortality in the U.S. since March 2020 clearly demonstrates that the pandemic has caused many more deaths than in previous years, there have been attempts by various parties to downplay the death toll, such as this article published by Gateway Pundit in August 2020, which falsely claimed that only 6% of COVID-19 deaths were caused by COVID-19.
Another article published by Gateway Pundit in May 2021 alleged that “[U.S. CDC director] finally admitted that ‘many, many hospitals’ were counting COVID deaths to include cases that were not COVID deaths”. The article went viral, receiving 22,000 interactions on Facebook as of 21 May 2021.
During a news interview by Dana Bash for CNN on 16 May 2021, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Rochelle Walensky discussed deaths among vaccine breakthrough cases related to COVID-19. During the interview, Walensky explained that not all of the deaths among vaccine breakthrough cases are due to COVID-19, but to different causes, citing heart attack as an example.
For context, below is a transcript of the relevant statements by Walensky:
Bash: “Are you aware of any fully vaccinated individual who has died of COVID-19?”
Walensky: “We do keep a track of this on our website. We are asking hospitals and healthcare facilities to send us cases of what we are calling breakthrough infections. They occur, they are rare, we are aware of 223 as of May 10th that are among the 115 million people that have been vaccinated by that time. I also want to convey that now many, many hospitals are screening people for COVID when they come in. So not all of those 223 cases who had COVID actually died of COVID. They may have had mild disease but died, for example, of a heart attack.”
Bash: “So you said 223 cases, but no confirmed deaths of people who are vaccinated from COVID?”
Walensky: “There have been 223 deaths out of 115 million people who are vaccinated, an extraordinarily low rate when you consider the death rate of COVID itself.”
Cases of infection among the vaccinated population are known as vaccine breakthrough cases. Although COVID-19 vaccines offer a high degree of protection from the disease, no vaccine is 100% effective, therefore a small percentage of vaccinated people may still contract the disease. Another factor that can contribute to breakthrough cases is the fact that immunity takes time to build. According to the CDC, it takes about two weeks for vaccinated people to develop the full level of immunity. During this time, vaccinated people remain vulnerable to disease.
Healthcare providers are required to report any deaths occurring among people who received the COVID-19 vaccine, even if there is no indication that the vaccine was involved in the death. According to the CDC guidelines, when determining the cause of death, only conditions or diseases that initiated the chain of events leading to the death (underlying cause) and the disease or complication that directly caused the death (immediate cause) can be ruled as the cause of death.
Thus, patients with mild symptoms or no symptoms of COVID-19 with other serious complications or injuries that lead to their death should not be ruled COVID-19 deaths, according to the CDC guidelines. These are the cases to which Walensky refers in her statements.
In conclusion, Walensky’s statements don’t mean that hospitals are counting deaths caused by another disease as COVID-19 deaths, but rather that vaccinated patients with mild symptoms of COVID-19 are dying from other causes. In the article published in Gateway Pundit, Walensky’s statements are misinterpreted to support the article they had published in August 2020, in which it was claimed, using flawed reasoning, that COVID-19 deaths were being overestimated.