Falsely reporting and making claims about COVID-19 cases can lead people to ignore the serious consequences of failing to take precautions that could affect themselves, their family members and friends.
Mr. Bob Anderson, head of the mortality statistics department at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, said false claims put people’s lives at risk.
” In this particular case, this misinformation may cause people not to take this virus seriously and not to take due care to prevent its spread,” Anderson told Washington Newsday. “This is the greatest risk of misinformation.”
In late November, the student-run Johns Hopkins News-Letter published a report on a study that has since been withdrawn, claiming that there have been no additional deaths, so-called “excess deaths”, in the U.S. this year since COVID-19, compared to deaths expected in an otherwise normal year.
This year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were nearly 300,000 excess deaths attributed to COVID-19 in early October.
The report was released on November 22 and then withdrawn, with a withdrawal being released on November 27. The withdrawal stated that the study cited in the report “was used to support dangerous inaccuracies that minimize the impact of the pandemic.
Anderson said it was justified to withdraw the report.
“The study was withdrawn from the newsletter for a specific reason,” Anderson said. “It’s because it was not good at all.”
The publication, edited by students, stated that the decision had been made “to stop the spread of misinformation,” and admitted that it was wrongly claimed that there was “no evidence that COVID-19 caused excessive deaths” and that the total number of deaths “was not above normal death rates.
The story, entitled “COVID-19 deaths: A Look at U.S. Data,” reported in a webinar by Genevieve Briand, Deputy Director of the Master’s Program in Applied Economics at the Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. The webinar was based on Briand’s analysis of publicly available data from the CDC.
In its retraction, the Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences student publication said Briand was neither a medical professional nor a disease researcher.
The publication acknowledged that it “does not live up to our responsibility as journalists to provide a historical record. Briand’s study should not be used exclusively to understand the effects of COVID-19, but should be viewed in conjunction with the myriad other data published by Hopkins, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)”.
History, illustrated by a graph compiled by Briand, repeatedly asserts: “These data analyses suggest that, contrary to the assumptions of most people, the number of deaths from COVID-19 is not alarming. In fact, it has relatively little effect on deaths in the United States.
But the CDC data contradicts both the original reporting and Briand’s analyses and claims.
“As of October 15, 216,025 deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in the United States; however, this may underestimate the overall impact of the pandemic on mortality,” the CDC said.
“In total, there were an estimated 299,028 excess deaths between the end of January and October 3, 2020, with 198,081 (66%) excess deaths attributed to COVID-19,” according to a report on the CDC website. “Supernumerary deaths are defined as the number of people who have died from all causes that exceed the expected number of deaths for a given place and time”.
Brian’s controversial claims have been repeated by other news agencies and in social media.
WBCK-FM, a news and talk radio station from Battle Creek, Michigan, published an article on its website on December 1 about the article in the student newsletter under the headline: “Researchers at Johns Hopkins University find death rate before and after COVID Same thing”. The station’s history repeated the same claims.
Other news media have exposed the story and the allegations. On December 3, SFGate reported under the heading “Major problems with the viral story of Johns Hopkins’ ‘study’ on COVID-19 deaths” that the false story that COVID-19 did not lead to an increase in deaths in the U.S. this year “is sweeping the right-wing media ecosystem, compounded by massive viral tweets.
More importantly, however, the CDC data contradicts the claim that an estimated 299,028 more deaths were reported as of October 3, including 198,081 (66 percent) attributed to COVID-19.