Fact Check: CDC Did NOT Inflate COVID-19 Numbers And Did NOT Violate Federal Law In Providing Death Data Guide

Fact Check

  • by: Alexis Tereszcuk
Fact Check: CDC Did NOT Inflate COVID-19 Numbers And Did NOT Violate Federal Law In Providing Death Data Guide Bad Math

Did the CDC inflate COVID-19 death numbers by 1,600% and did it violate federal law by enacting new data collecting rules for cause-of-death reports? No, that's not true: The nation's mortality data expert told Lead Stories The Centers for Disease Control did not change its reporting rules when the COVID-19 virus outbreak began in the United States in 2020. Further, the CDC does not make laws that states must follow to report causes of death, said Robert Anderson, Chief, Mortality Statistics Branch, National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The story appeared as an article published by National File on February 1, 2021 titled "BUSTED: CDC Inflated COVID Numbers, Accused of Violating Federal Law - National File" (archived here) which opened:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stands accused of violating federal law by inflating Coronavirus fatality numbers, according to stunning information obtained by NATIONAL FILE. CDC illegally inflated the COVID fatality number by 1,600 percent as the 2020 presidential election played out, according to a study published by ...

Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:

BUSTED: CDC Inflated COVID Numbers, Accused of Violating Federal Law - National File

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stands accused of violating federal law by inflating Coronavirus fatality numbers, according to stunning information obtained by NATIONAL FILE. CDC illegally inflated the COVID fatality number by 1,600 percent as the 2020 presidential election played out, according to a study published by ...

The source of the claim in the article is an October 2020 report from the private organization Institute for Pure and Applied Knowledge (IPAK) titled, "COVID-19 Data Collection, Comorbidity & Federal Law: A Historical Retrospective." The organization has made false claims about vaccine efficacy have been debunked before. This IPAK report lists 10 authors from a number of naturopathic and natural healing organizations.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information previously debunked a claim by the group's founder that the COVID-19 virus was created in a lab.

The National File article goes on to claim:

The groundbreaking peer-reviewed research...asserts that the CDC willfully violated multiple federal laws including the Information Quality Act, Paperwork Reduction Act, and Administrative Procedures Act at minimum. (Publishing Journal - Institute for Pure and Applied Knowledge / Public Health Policy Initiative) Most notably, the CDC illegally enacted new rules for data collection and reporting exclusively for COVID-19 that resulted in a 1,600% inflation of current COVID-19 fatality totals," the watchdog group All Concerned Citizens declared in a statement provided to NATIONAL FILE, referring to the Institute for Pure and Applied Knowledge study.

There is no readily available evidence that the group All Concerned Citizens exists - a Google search yields no results for the organization. One post on Facebook notes that Dr. Henry Ealy is the spokesperson for the group. Ealy is the first person mentioned as the author of the study in the National File article.

The National File article also claims:

The (IPAK report) demonstrates that the CDC failed to apply for mandatory federal oversight and failed to open a mandatory period for public scientific comment in both instances as is required by federal law before enacting new rules for data collection and reporting. The CDC is required to be in full compliance with all federal laws even during emergency situations. The research asserts that CDC willfully compromised the accuracy and integrity of all COVID-19 case and fatality data from the onset of this crisis in order to fraudulently inflate case and fatality data," stated All Concerned Citizens.

Anderson spoke to Lead Stories via telephone on February 12, 2021 and explained that the CDC guidance for death reporting was not altered for COVID-19 deaths in 2020: "I was involved in the development of the 2003 guidelines. I was involved in the development of the COVID-19 guidance. They are the same. The reason why we emphasized COVID-19 and put out a COVID-19-specific guidance was to ensure these [deaths] were being reported in the proper way."

Anderson explained:

There is an idea out there that if people have these pre-existing comorbidities but they die from COVID-19, then the comorbidities should be the cause of death. That's not the case. COVID-19 is something you die from. It is the underlying cause. If you have cancer or diabetes and are in a car accident, a car accident causes trauma and bleeding. It is the car accident that caused the death. The condition that initiated the chain of events that lead to death is the cause of death. Just because you have the pre-existing comorbidities doesn't mean that should be counted as the cause of death."

Anderson continued, "People can live for years with comorbidities. Then if something comes along and cuts their life short, that's the cause of death. Not the pre-existing comorbidities."

Page 7 of the 25 page IPAK report asserts:

We allege that the complete absence of the appropriate Federal Register records is evidence that the CDC knowingly and willingly violated the IQA & PRA. As a direct consequence of implementing the two documents below without OMB approval, there was significant inflation of COVID-19 case and fatality data.
e) Most notably, the CDC illegally enacted new rules for data collection and reporting exclusively for COVID-19 that resulted in a 1,600% inflation of current COVID-19 fatality totals,"

Anderson refuted the claim that the CDC illegally enacted new rules for death reporting. "This idea that CDC didn't follow the rule making process? That's absurd. The data are collected, death certificates are governed by state laws and regulations. There is no federal law governing collecting data from states. It doesn't make any sense for CDC, NCHS to go through a rule making process and create a rule for a state law. That doesn't make any sense. We can't do that. That wouldn't be legal."

The IPAK report cites :

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on August 23, 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 death."

That corresponds to what Health.com reported in August 2020: data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that only 6% of people who died of COVID-19 only have COVID-19 on their death certificate.

Anderson broke down how the IPAK report authors likely came up with the "1,600% increase" based on the 6% percent number:

They're just taking the total number of COVID-19 deaths from August 23, 2020 - 161,392 - and using 6% of that to get 9,684. They took 6% of the other and used that as the new number, that accounts for the increase from 9,684 to 161,392, which is a 1,600% increase.

He continued, "They're saying we're going to only count the deaths that have COVID-19 with no comorbidities. It is ridiculous to suggest that only those deaths with just COVID-19 are the COVID-19 deaths. That was debunked long ago."

Lead Stories debunked the comorbidities-are-cause-of-death claim here.

NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalist to rank the reliability of websites, describes nationalfile.com as:

A website that has repeatedly published conspiracy theories and other false information and does not disclose its agenda.

According to NewsGuard the site does not maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability. Read their full assessment here.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Alexis Tereszcuk

Alexis Tereszcuk is a writer and fact checker at Lead Stories and an award-winning journalist who spent over a decade breaking hard news and celebrity scoop with RadarOnline and Us Weekly.

As the Entertainment Editor, she investigated Hollywood stories and conducted interviews with A-list celebrities and reality stars.  

Alexis’ crime reporting earned her spots as a contributor on the Nancy Grace show, CNN, Fox News and Entertainment Tonight, among others.

Read more about or contact Alexis Tereszcuk

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