John Fund and Phil Kerpen explain at National Review Online why reports about COVID-19 deaths can be misleading.

Deborah Birx, the physician advising the White House’s coronavirus task force, gave voice to a real concern earlier this month. She told officials from the Centers for Disease Control that some of its numbers on mortality and case count could be inflated by up to 25 percent. …

… We now know more about what she was talking about, since Colorado has become the first state to publish two different numbers. One number is derived using a definition mandated by the CDC, which issued guidelines on March 24 specifying that “COVID-19 should be reported on the death certificate for all decedents where the disease caused or is assumed to have caused or contributed to death.”

The second is a narrower category called “deaths due to COVID-19,” which is limited to people who actually died of the disease. Counting in this way results in a decline of 23 percent in reported COVID-19 deaths. What’s going on here?

There have been many outlandish examples of people dying of things bearing not the slightest connection to COVID-19, but, having tested positive for the coronavirus, they were added to the official COVID-19 death tally anyway. …

… There is no doubt this virus flashed through nursing homes with devastating effect. We have cataloged the death toll in these spreadsheets.

But if we don’t fix the definition, residents of nursing homes (which are now being tested wholesale for coronavirus) who have mild or asymptomatic infections will show up in the COVID-19 death count when they die from any of the maladies from which people die. The median nursing-home stay before death is just five months. If this definitional problem isn’t fixed, the tallies will lose all contact with reality, with attendant public panic and additional economic hardship.

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