Are US COVID-19 Deaths Undercounted?
by Stephen Lendman
With rare exceptions, it’s no secret that politicians lie and virtually nothing they say should be taken at face value — notably in the US and West.
Are politicians misreporting information from medical sources on the extent of COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths?
Last weekend, the NYT headlined: “Official Counts Understate the US Coronavirus Death Toll,” saying:
“Inconsistent protocols, limited resources, and a patchwork of decision making have led to an undercounting of people with the coronavirus who have died, health experts say.”
Medical misdiagnoses happen often in the US and elsewhere.
According to Scientific American, “most (ill) Americans will be misdiagnosed at least once,” adding:
“Alarming gaps in knowledge about diagnostic errors and medical delays require intense scrutiny, says an expert medical advisory group,” according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM).
Some errors do little or no harm. Others can be devastating. Medical science is imperfect and so are humans no matter how skilled.
MOI gave a frightening example, saying:
“Perhaps a lung scan that reveals potentially cancerous tissue never makes it to a doctor’s desk where it could receive further scrutiny.”
“If the patient and health care provider discovered lung cancer, the patient could have received earlier treatment that might have saved his or her life.”
When lives and well-being are at stake, accuracy and attentiveness to issues are essential.
MOI explained that too little is known about the extent of medical errors and how to rectify the problem, stressing:
“(T)hey are pervasive and deadly.” Decades of research show diagnostic mistakes contribute to an estimated 10% of patient deaths.
A conservative estimate of outpatient errors is 5%. IOM experts earlier called on HHS and other federal agencies in Washington to conduct research on this issue.
In 1999, IOM research found that nearly 100,000 people die annually from hospital mistakes.
A more recent estimate puts the number at between 210,000 – 440,000 patient deaths.
According to IOM chair/American College of Physicians executive vice president emeritus John Ball:
“Without a dedicated focus on improving diagnosis, these errors will likely worsen as the delivery of health care and the diagnostic process continue to increase in complexity.”
As of Tuesday, officially reported US COVID-19 deaths are nearly 11,000. Is the true number much higher?
Public health and other medical experts believe the official number undercounts reality — because of “inconsistent protocols, limited resources and a patchwork of decision making from one state or county to the next,” the Times reported.
In rural areas and elsewhere, coroners don’t have the proper tests to determine the virus as a cause of death. Why not!
Are other determinations faulty because of indifference or incompetence?
If no uniform system exists nationwide in the US to identify COVID-19 as a cause of death as distinguished from much more prevalent season flu, other influenza strains, and pneumonia that can kill, as one example, undercounting could be significant.
According to Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security’s Jennifer Nuzzo:
“We definitely think there are deaths that we have not accounted for.”
Last week, the CDC issued new guidelines for reporting COVID-19 deaths based on patients who tested positive for the disease, or if testing wasn’t done based on “circumstances (that) are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty.”
Without accurate mortality figures, it’s impossible to know a disease’s deadliness so able to prepare for future outbreaks.
An official US COVID-19 tally won’t be available until leading causes of death in the country are compiled in an annual report due out next year.
If significant undercounting occurs, the total will be meaningless.
Because of large-scale COVID-19 outbreaks in NYC and state, ER staff believe the death rate is much higher than reported.
Some experts believe we won’t ever know the extent of COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths because of undercounting.
John Hopkins School of Public Health Professor Stephanie Helleringer noted that there’s still uncertainty about the number of 1918-20 Spanish flu deaths.
It reportedly killed up to 40 million worldwide. Was it an over-or-undercount? We’ll never know.
My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”