Fact Check: CDC Did NOT Report 99% Of COVID Deaths Weren't Caused By COVID -- Claim Abuses A Headline Gaffe

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne
Fact Check: CDC Did NOT Report 99% Of COVID Deaths Weren't Caused By COVID -- Claim Abuses A Headline Gaffe Bad Headline

Did the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that 99 percent of "Covid deaths" were not primarily caused by the virus? No, that's not true: The claim was propagated by an incorrect headline written by the Daily Mail, which has since been fixed to reflect the corrected details of a story about COVID as a fraction of deaths from all causes. The original headline said, "99% of 'Covid deaths' not primarily caused by the virus, CDC data shows." As of this writing it reads, "Covid to blame for just 1% of weekly deaths from all causes across the US, CDC data shows."

The claim appeared in a post and video on Instagram (archived here) published by amazing_bearded_wonder on October 2, 2023. The post's caption said:

Glad y'all did it for that 1%

#truth #amazing #beard #love #news #instagood #videooftheday #reels #beautiful #funny #comedy #happy #follow #share #like #instagram #repost #me #friends #fun #instamood #motivation #business #success #marketing #entrepreneur #brand #branding #contentcreator #socialmedia

This is what the post looked like on Instagram at the time of writing:

Beard guy.png

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Wed Oct 4 16:46:28 2023 UTC)

The video

During the 86-second video, a narrator lays out his case. A transcript of the clip is included below:

Well, hello America. So, in case y'all missed it, the CDC has come out in a new report, which has been fact-checked -- take that for what it's worth -- that states that it actually over-exaggerated and/or faked (we'll use that) 99% of COVID deaths in order to scare the general public into taking the vaccination.

How the fuck-up sparkles. That's right, kids. Only 1 percent. One percent of the deaths they reported from COVID were actually COVID deaths. Y'all remember those videos in the early days of the pandemic with people lying dead in the streets? Turns out that was fake. Turns out that that was set up. Turns out that that was Hollywood trying to scare you so you would take the vaccination.

Because it's all about being safe, or was it? They needed you to take the vaccine for what they have planned next. Why the hell would the CDC fake a whole bunch of deaths and illnesses and want you to put something into your body when they didn't know the results of what was going to happen to your body? Or did they, and you just don't know it? Just fucking saying.

Daily Mail

The narrator doesn't say where he got his information but it likely came from a Daily Mail article published August 28, 2023, under the headline "99% of 'Covid deaths' not primarily caused by the virus, CDC data shows." Within 24 hours, the publication updated the headline and added this note at the bottom of its story:

An earlier version of this article claimed 99 percent of Covid deaths in the past week were not primarily caused by the virus. In fact, a footnote at the bottom of the CDC's Covid data tracker explains the percentage of all reported deaths attributed as Covid-19 is calculated based on the number of deaths from all causes. We have amended the article to reflect this.

The narrator may have also gotten the information from other social media. This Instagram post (archived here) published on September 8, 2023, highlights the same misinformation that originated with the Daily Mail. You can see it below:


(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Wed Oct 4 21:16:56 2023 UTC)

Additionally, the narrator in the video fails to make an apples-to-apples comparison. While he strongly suggests the CDC faked the numbers throughout the pandemic, both the public health agency and the Daily Mail article only focused on weekly figures.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In an October 4, 2023, email to Lead Stories, CDC press officer Scott Pauley provided the agency's response to the social media posts, noting the "misinterpretation of our data" had already been corrected by the Daily Mail. The public health agency's statement said:

The reported percent change reflects the change in percent of total deaths with COVID-19 reported as a cause or contributing factor. So, 1.7% of all deaths occurring in the week ending August 19 involved COVID-19. The most recent data for that week show 606 COVID-19 deaths out of 35,333 total deaths = 1.7. Data for the week ending August 26 show 230 COVID-19 deaths out of 12,505 total deaths = 1.8% (see Provisional Death Counts for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (cdc.gov)). We use this metric because it is more stable as an early indicator than the number of deaths. The increase in percent of total deaths does indicate a uptick in COVID-19 deaths, which is consistent with other data COVID-19 sources like hospital admissions.

Read more

Additional Lead Stories fact checks of claims about COVID-19 vaccination can be found here.

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