In February 2020, the first American died from COVID-19, according to
health officials. In the nearly three years since, there have been
1,095,149 COVID-19 deaths in the United States, according to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, a prominent public health expert warns that officials have
been overcounting COVID-19 deaths.
Leana Wen is an emergency physician, CNN medical analyst, Washington
Post contributor, and professor of health policy and management at the
George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.
Wen previously served as a global health fellow at the World Health Organization and as the president of Planned Parenthood.
Wen wasn't only a talking head on cable TV. Politico reported in April,
"Wen also has some direct lines into the White House as part of a group
of health experts who have received private briefings on Covid policy throughout the pandemic."
The White House has cited Wen's opinions about coronavirus in the past.
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Wen rose to fame during the COVID-19 pandemic. The medical pundit made
a name for herself by preaching hardline proposals such as not
permitting unvaccinated Americans to travel. Wen urged President Joe
Biden to enact draconian measures against unvaccinated individuals.
In September 2021, she proposed that anyone not vaccinated for COVID-19
should be barred from interstate travel, businesses should not serve
the unvaccinated, called for mandating every American over the age of
12 to be vaccinated, and require all U.S. residents have a national
proof of vaccination.
At the same time, Wen demonized unvaccinated Americans — comparing them
to drunk drivers.
In October 2020, Wen demanded a national mask mandate and declared,
"Masks work. They are the single most effective intervention we have to
stop the tidal wave of COVID-19."
Last January, Wen advocated for universal masking regardless of
vaccination status. She even championed wearing two face masks at the
"Everyone should be wearing at least a three-ply surgical mask — a
cloth mask on top can help with fit," Wen stated.
However, Wen said in December 2021, "Cloth masks are little more than
facial decorations. There’s no place for them in light of Omicron."
On Friday, Wen arrived to a conclusion regarding COVID deaths that has
been proposed by others years ago.
Wen penned an opinion piece in the Washington Post titled: "We are
overcounting covid deaths and hospitalizations. That’s a problem."
In the article, Wen asked a question that conservatives have been
asking since near the beginning of the pandemic: "But are these
Americans dying from covid or with covid?"
Wen proposed, "Understanding this distinction is crucial to putting the continuing toll of the coronavirus into perspective. Determining how
likely an infection will result in hospitalization or death helps
people weigh their own risk. It also enables health officials to assess
when vaccine effectiveness wanes and future rounds of boosters are
Shira Doron — the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine
health system — told Wen that "some days" only 10% of those
hospitalized at the Tufts Medical Center were there because of COVID-19 illness.
Robin Dretler — an attending physician at Emory Decatur Hospital and
the former president of Georgia’s chapter of Infectious Diseases
Society of America — estimates that 90% of the patients at his hospital diagnosed with COVID-19 are actually in the hospital for another
"Since every hospitalized patient gets tested for covid, many are
incidentally positive," Dretler said.
Dretler added, "People who have very low white blood cell counts from chemotherapy might be admitted because of bacterial pneumonia or foot
gangrene. They may also have covid, but covid is not the main reason
why they’re so sick."
Wen suggested, "A gunshot victim or someone who had a heart attack, for example, could test positive for the virus, but the infection has no
bearing on why they sought medical care."
"If these patients die, covid might get added to their death
certificate along with the other diagnoses," Wen wrote. "But the
coronavirus was not the primary contributor to their death and often
played no role at all."
However, this concept of labeling COVID-19 deaths as something
completely irrelevant is nothing new.
In July 2020, TheBlaze reported how deaths in Florida were wrongly
attributed to COVID-19. A 60-year-old Palm Beach County man who died
from a gunshot wound to the head was categorized as a COVID-19 death.
The investigative team at WPEC-TV found that a "90-year-old man who
fell and died from complications of a hip fracture" and "a 77-year-old
woman who died of Parkinson's disease" were labeled as COVID-19 deaths.
In the same month, a man in his 20s was listed as a COVID-19 death
despite dying in a motorcycle crash.
In November 2020, a 51-year-old Croatian man who died after falling off
a 10-foot ladder was listed as a COVID-19 fatality.
In August 2020, TheBlaze senior editor Daniel Horowitz exposed how
COVID-19 deaths were overcounted in Maricopa County, Arizona.
In fact, the CDC previously admitted that only a small percentage of
COVID-19 deaths were solely from coronavirus. TheBlaze cited the CDC in
August 2020, "For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause
mentioned. For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-
19, on average, there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per
Doron warned, "Overcounting covid deaths undermines people's sense of
security and the efficacy of vaccines."
Wen concluded, "Most importantly, knowing who exactly is dying from
covid can help us identify who is truly vulnerable. These are the
patients we need to protect through better vaccines and treatments."