Tuesday, January 11, 2022

How Many People Have Died from COVID Versus with COVID?

This was the big debate yesterday, over Rochelle Walinsky's comments. 

At WSJ, "Now She Tells Us":

Amid a mounting pile of unfulfilled Biden promises on Covid, from his pledge to shut down the virus to his assurance of abundant testing, the president’s favorite experts are suddenly sharing relevant facts that were too inconvenient to emphasize during his predecessor’s administration. Last week this column noted that two years, $4 trillion of federal debt and millions of isolated children too late, White House Covid czar Dr. Anthony Fauci has discovered the massive costs of pandemic restrictions. Now we have Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, implicitly making the case for a strategy she once disparaged.

On Friday, ABC’s “Good Morning America” program touted research showing that Covid vaccines are highly effective in preventing severe illness and then asked the CDC director: “Given that, is it time to start rethinking how we’re living with this virus, that it’s probably here to stay?” Dr. Walensky responded: 
The overwhelming number of deaths, over 75%, occurred in people who had at least 4 comorbidities. So really these are people who were unwell to begin with and yes, really encouraging news in the context of Omicron.

Dr. Walensky seems to have been trying to make the point that the vast majority of people do not face as great a risk as one would think from listening to Covid-era apocalyptic forecasts from people like her.

Sure, it may be hard to forget her unscientific March 2021 declaration at a White House briefing:

I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom.

Then there was her decision that the threat could somehow be addressed by issuing an unconstitutional ban on evictions. But if Dr. Walensky has since gotten a hold of herself and is now trying to enhance understanding of the threats people face, that would be progress.

Her CDC website notes that close to 95% of death certificates listing Covid as a cause also mention other causes along with Covid and states:

For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 4.0 additional conditions or causes per death.
Unfortunately, in her Friday ABC interview, Dr. Walensky’s phrasing of the “encouraging news” about modest risk for many Americans sparked an online backlash as some interpreted the remarks as callous toward those at high risk. Kamau Bell of HBO and CNN tweeted, “I counted up my comorbidities. Now I can let my family know that if I die from COVID it is ‘encouraging.’ ”

On Sunday Dr. Walensky tweeted:

We must protect people with comorbidities from severe #COVID19. I went into medicine – HIV specifically – and public health to protect our most at-risk. CDC is taking steps to protect those at highest risk, incl. those w/ chronic health conditions, disabilities & older adults.
Fair enough, but this recognition that some face great risk from Covid while others face much lower risk has been obvious from the start. In response, a group of accomplished and wise scientists crafted the Great Barrington Declaration in 2020 to promote a ”focused protection” strategy—taking great care to shield those at high risk while allowing the vast majority who are at low risk to continue working, learning and doing all the things that sustain life. This sensible prioritization sounds very much like what Dr. Walensky is suggesting in her Sunday tweet...

Here's Lisa Boothe:

And for the full context, see Allahpundit, at Hot Air, "Here's what the CDC chief actually told ABC about COVID deaths and comorbidities."