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• Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on CNN that among 223 deaths from breakthrough COVID-19 infections after vaccination, some might have been from causes other than the virus.
• The CDC’s data on breakthrough infections shows that of the 223 deaths, 42 — or 18% — were reported as asymptomatic or not related to COVID-19.
• The claim about the CDC overcounting COVID-19 deaths initially surfaced in August and was debunked.
An article widely shared on Facebook claims to have caught the leadership of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a "gotcha" moment, admitting to attributing unrelated deaths to COVID-19.
The article from The Gateway Pundit, a conservative news site, is headlined, "CDC director finally admits that COVID cases were overcounted in hospitals — just as Gateway Pundit and Donald Trump reported in August."
The article was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
The latest claim piggybacks on the already-debunked premise that the CDC was overcounting COVID-19 deaths. In this case, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky’s recent comments about deaths from breakthrough infections — which occur when fully vaccinated people contract COVID-19 — were paraphrased and taken out of context.
In August, President Donald Trump retweeted and The Gateway Pundit reported on several posts that falsely claimed the CDC quietly adjusted the number of U.S. coronavirus deaths downward by 94%, from 153,504 to 9,210.
The claims were based on a report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), which indicated that about 6% of Americans who died from COVID-19 had only the virus, and no other conditions, listed on their death certificates. The vast majority of coronavirus-related deaths occur in patients who have other conditions, which are also listed on their death certificates, but that doesn’t mean COVID-19 was not a factor in their deaths.
The CDC considers the underlying cause of death as "the condition that began the chain of events that ultimately led to the person’s death," Jeff Lancashire, acting associate director for communications at the NCHS told us. In 92% of death certificates that mention the virus, COVID-19 was the underlying cause of death.
Though the August claim about overreporting COVID-19 deaths was debunked, The Gateway Pundit revisited the falsehood this week, after Walensky appeared on CNN’s "State of the Union."
Walensky said during her appearance that as of May 10, the CDC is aware of 223 deaths from COVID-19 among fully vaccinated people. She added, "I also want to convey that now many, many hospitals are screening people for COVID when they come in, so not all of those 223 cases who had COVID actually died of COVID. They may have had mild disease, but died, for example, of a heart attack," according to a transcript of her comments.
The CDC’s data on breakthrough infections shows that of the 223 deaths, 42 — or 18% — were reported as asymptomatic or not related to COVID-19.
Walensky said "many, many hospitals are screening people for COVID when they come in." But The Gateway Pundit paraphrased and misrepresented her comments, reporting that she "admitted that ‘many, many hospitals’ were counting COVID deaths to include cases that were not COVID deaths."
A story by The Gateway Pundit says, "CDC director finally admits that COVID cases were overcounted in hospitals — just as Gateway Pundit and Donald Trump reported in August."
The original claim in August, that the CDC was overcounting deaths, was not true. It was based on a report from NCHS that differentiated between death certificates that only listed COVID-19 and those that listed other conditions as well.
In the recent claim, the Gateway Pundit misrepresented comments made by Walensky of the CDC. She said that "many, many hospitals are screening people for COVID when they come in." But The Gateway Pundit said she "admitted that ‘many, many hospitals’ were counting COVID deaths to include cases that were not COVID deaths."
We rate this claim False.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "COVID-19 Vaccine Breakthrough Case Investigation and Reporting," accessed May 18, 2021
CNBC, "Fauci debunks theories of low CDC coronavirus death toll: ‘There are 180,000-plus deaths’ in U.S.," Sept. 1, 2020
CNN, "Transcripts: State of the Union," May 16, 2021
The Gateway Pundit, "BOOM! CDC Director Finally Admits that COVID Cases were Over-Counted in Hospitals– Just as Gateway Pundit and Donald Trump Reported in August," May 17, 2021
PolitiFact, "No, the CDC did not ‘quietly adjust’ US coronavirus deaths," Aug. 31, 2020
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