Recently, the CDC began releasing comorbidity data for use in hospital tracking and differential diagnosis. Social media seized on this as yet another excuse to declare COVID-19 a hoax. It’s not a hoax, people; COVID-19 can kill you.
We’ve seen four different versions of the meme, each stating that under 10,000 of the reported 170,000 COVID-19 deaths were in fact due to the virus, but instead that other underlying causes were to blame for most of them. A simple glance at the data on the CDC’s website, however, shows pretty clearly that the truth of the matter is exactly opposite the message of the meme. Further investigation into the methodology of data collection confirms this.
An example: According to the American Cancer Society, at any given point in time about 5.5% of Americans have cancer. If we look at this list, we’ll see 7000 comorbidities with “malignant neoplasms” (that’s “cancer” to the rest of us). Given 150,000 COVID-19 deaths, all things being equal we’d expect to see 8250, not 7000; perhaps people taking massive doses of chemo are already avoiding anyone who might be sick as a matter of course. Either way, there’s nothing surprising there — which there would be if any cancer deaths were being reported erroneously as COVID.
Further analysis along these lines seems to hold true for every major cause of death, with other exceptions that again support the assertion that the meme is incorrect.
There are some conclusions that can be reached here, however, and they’re somewhat startling. Yes, COVID-19 is more likely to kill the old than the young, but relative health when contracting the virus is apparently less impactful than one might think. A history of respiratory ailments will make one more susceptible, but in gross terms that’s about it. The healthy are vulnerable too, as apparently are the young.
What we cannot know from this data is the number of people by age group who have been exposed to the virus yet have not contracted it — or, perhaps more particularly, have not shown symptoms. Once we learn this, we’ll likely discover whether age alone makes one more vulnerable intrinsically or, as it were, environmentally.
But the bottom line remains: This is fake news.
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