The conspiracy theorists were right – the COVID-19 death toll is intentionally inflated
While WEF Young Leader Leana Wen insists that overcounting of COVID-19 death isn’t intentional, numerous examples show the opposite. This is the first article in a series on the COVID-19 death toll.
By Dan Cohen
On January 13, Washington Post columnist Leana Wen published an article stating that the U.S. government has been overcounting COVID-19 deaths.
“If these patients die, Covid might get added to their death certificate along with the other diagnoses. But the coronavirus was not the primary contributor to their death and often played no role at all,” she wrote.
The article sparked a furious backlash from media pundits.
Pfizer-funded MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan led the charge with a nearly 10 minute-long rant, using maximalist rhetoric that COVID-19 is a “new 9/11 every week.”
Four university professors co-authored an article comparing all-cause mortality to COVID-19 deaths, falsely assuming that death certificates which contain COVID-19 anywhere signify the disease was the underlying cause. As a result, they concluded that COVID-19 deaths were being undercounted.
Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting’s Ari Paul also published a piece castigating Wen’s article as trafficking “false claims” of a COVID overcount but offered no evidence and relied on supposed “experts.”
However, Wen reassured readers that overcounting was merely incidental, and that claims of intentional inflation of the disease’s death toll for “nefarious reasons” is a baseless “conspiracy theory.”
Skeptics and critical thinkers who have questioned the death toll have been smeared, not only as “conspiracy theorists”, but as purveyors of misinformation, white supremacists, fascists. Pfizer CEO Albourt Bourla even branded them “criminals” that “have literally cost millions of lives.” Pressured by the White House, Silicon Valley tech giants rolled out a new wave of censorship while top health officials colluded to destroy the reputations and careers of prominent doctors and scientists.
On its face, Wen’s statement that COVID-19 deaths have been overcounted, which many skeptics have long alleged, is ironic. She is firmly planted in the elite policy making world; she is a World Economic Forum Young Leader, a member of the premiere Washington think-tank the Council on Foreign Relations, a Brookings Institute nonresident senior fellow, a former president of Planned Parenthood, and more.
Source: World Economic Forum
Since the earliest days of the COVID era, Wen has tailored her expertise to suit shifting governmental policies. On March 15, 2020, as federal and state governments ordered crushing lockdowns amid a national panic, she poured gas on the fire, writing in the Washington Post that “starting now, everyone should try to avoid going to the ER.’ This contributed to a 300% increase in at-home heart attacks as would-be patients avoided emergency departments at all costs.
In September 2021, as the Biden administration imposed sweeping vaccine mandates, Wen went even further, implicitly calling for forced vaccination, proposing that the unvaccinated be banned from public life and treated as if they had committed drunk driving – a potential felony crime punishable with jail time. Wen’s comments to punish the unvaccinated were particularly ludicrous as it was by then clear that COVID-19 injections do not prevent infection or transmission, as CDC director Rochelle Walensky admitted weeks before.
Source: Washington Post
In November 2022, as midterms elections approached, she flipped her message again, advocating that the unvaccinated should not be excluded from family gatherings and admitting that “as we learned from omicron, the vaccines are not so good at protecting us from contracting Covid.” This admission was another deception. The COVID-19 injections had never been tested on whether they prevent transmission.
“Leana Wen has been one of the chief propagandists since the beginning of the pandemic,” scoffed Dr. Pierre Kory, founder of the Frontline Critical Care Alliance. “Why is she, of all people, now admitting deaths are overcounted?”
By now partially admitting the skeptics were correct about inflated death tolls, Wen appears to be seeking to re-capture public trust, while never giving any credible justification for her change in position.
“Limited hangout,” said Thomas Binder, a Swiss cardiologist who was one of the earliest doctors to reject the mainstream COVID-19 narrative that Wen, among many others, had been pushing.
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Wen’s article is not the first admission of overcounting. CDC director Rochelle Walensky herself has admitted as much in a January 9 Fox News appearance, saying, “In some hospitals that we've talked to, up to 40 percent of the patients who are coming in with COVID-19 are coming in not because they’re sick with COVID, but because they’re coming in with something else and have had to, [so] COVID or the omicron variant [were] detected.”
When host Bret Baier pressed Walensky on how many of the CDC’s then-count of 836,000 COVID-19 deaths are actually from the illness, she answered, “Those data will be forthcoming.”
CNN anchor Jake Tapper, irked by Walensky’s admission, slammed the CDC. “We're 2 years into this,” Tapper said. “If somebody's in the hospital with a broken leg and they also have asymptomatic COVID, that should not be counted as hospitalized with COVID, clearly."
In February 2022, Politico reported that a CDC and HHS task force is recalculating COVID-19 hospitalizations to distinguish between those treated because of COVID-19 symptoms and those who happen to test positive for the virus while receiving treatment for other conditions as a result of mandatory COVID-19 screening procedures.
‘A very liberal approach to mortality’
Since the earliest days of the COVID-19 era, public officials at the federal, state and county level have been open about the fact that any death with a positive SARS-CoV-2 test, regardless of whether the decedent is infected or not, no matter the actual cause of death, were counted as COVID-19 deaths in national mortality statistics. Cases labeled “probable” were included too.
On April 7, 2020, soon after the new instructions were released, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx – a career government doctor since the 1980s with no clinical experience – was asked by a reporter about concerns the method would distort the death toll.
In her response, Birx described the US government as having “taken a very liberal approach to mortality.” She added that the White House’s “intent” was that “if someone dies with COVID-19, we are counting that as a COVID-19 death.”
Other public health officials were similarly explicit.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, went viral when she explained that any death with a positive COVID test, no matter the actual cause, is counted as a COVID death.
“The case definition is very simplistic”, Ezike said. “It means, at the time of death, it was a COVID positive diagnosis. That means if you were in hospice and had already been given a few weeks to live, and you were also found to have COVID, that would be counted as a COVID death. It means, technically, even if you died technically of a clear alternate cause, but you had COVID at the same time, it’s still listed as a COVID death. Everyone who is listed as a COVID death doesn’t mean that that was the cause of the death, but they had COVID at the time of death.”
On October 19, 2021, when three children were incorrectly listed as COVID deaths, Rhode Island Department of Health Medical Director Dr. James McDonald testified under oath that falsely labeling them was in accordance with CDC policy.
“The CDC’s definition has been the same throughout the pandemic. That’s any death with a positive COVID test. We’ve been using the same definition throughout the pandemic,” McDonald said.
“So a sixteen year old who gets shot in the head, is rushed to the hospital, is tested positive for COVID and then dies of the gunshot wound to the head, that’s a COVID death?” a lawyer asked.
“It meets the definition of the CDC,” McDonald replied.
Effingham County, Georgia coroner Kim Rhodes spoke clearly too. "My policy at the coroner's office here is, if they've had COVID, and they've been tested for COVID and they have a positive result for COVID, it will go in underlying conditions on a death certificate,” she said.
In September 2022, Los Angeles County chief medical officer Brad Spellberg wrote in a since deleted tweet that more than 90 percent of positive COVID tests are incidental, “meaning most Covid+ [positive] deaths are not due to Covid.”
‘People don't want to hear the truth’
Soon after the definition was implemented, public officials began to lie about COVID-19 deaths, often holding highly publicized press conferences.
On April 1, 2020, Connecticut governor Ned Lamont held a press conference announcing that a 6-week-old baby that had died days earlier was the country’s youngest victim of coronavirus, citing the death to urge strict adherence to lockdown orders and social distancing. “You’re endangering yourself, you’re endangering your family, and you’re endangering everybody you come into contact with,” he scolded.
But it soon emerged that the infant had died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – apparently from asphyxiation in its crib – and was swabbed with a PCR test post-mortem that returned positive. In response, Connecticut State Epidemiologist Matthew Cartter said it is not the health department’s job to determine cause of death. This macabre practice of swabbing dead bodies for COVID-19, regardless of obviously unrelated causes of death, was the result of a state order from hospitals.
In 2021, when Hawaii announced its first pediatric death due to the virus, virologist and epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer Smith, who was working in the state’s health department, wrote a Linkedin post titled ‘COVID deaths or stoking the fires of fear?’
Source: HDOH investigation into epidemiologist Jennifer Smith
Smith argued that the baby should not be called a COVID-19 death because it had serious underlying medical conditions and that the PCR tests that resulted its SARS-CoV-2 positivity were run at a very high threshold count (the metric which determines the test’s sensitivity) of 38.5 and 39, and were actually false positives. Even more egregious was the fact that the baby was not a Hawaii resident, so its death – regardless of underlying cause – should have been recorded for its home state, not for the family’s travel destination. “Public health officials need to stop pandering to politicians and the media,” she concluded.
The Hawaii State Department of Health later fired Smith for “contradicting and at times disparaging the HDOH”, using screengrabs they had collected of her Linkedin posts as evidence, even citing her use of a meme of the film character Joker as “disturbing.”
“They cut off the important part of the meme,” she said, referring to the quote that “People don't want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.”
‘Deep state malarkey’
The rare occasion that a reporter asked a critical question occurred when Washington Governor Jay Inslee – also a World Economic Forum member – was asked about a report that COVID-19 deaths were being overcounted, he lashed out, accusing the authors of promoting misinformation and posing a danger to human health.
“The problem is, you’ve got some people out there who are fanning these conspiracy claims from the planet Pluto. And it’s just disgusting what they’re trying to say about all these crazy, deep state malarkey,” he said.
Though Inslee dismissed the accusation as interplanetary disinformation, the Washington State Department of Health’s official definition called a COVID-19 death as “occurring among those who have a positive COVID-19 test at any time and whose death certificate includes COVID as a cause or contributing factor.”
Washington State Department of Health Director Dr. Katie Hutchinson contradicted Inslee when she admitted that several gunshot victims had been listed as COVID-19 deaths. “We had to modify what we normally do in order to quickly meet the data and informational needs of the pandemic,” she said. “We’re aware that there is some confusion about how this works and whether or not this modified process is accurate.”
Across the country, blatant cases of external deaths were counted as COVID-19 deaths.
Perhaps the best known case was of an Orlando, Florida man who died in a motorcycle accident but was called a COVID-19 death. Then a Fox investigation compelled the state to remove him from the virus’ death tally.
An even more egregious case happened on May 28, 2020, when Raul Rome Teoba was struck by lightning while working on a rooftop in Middleburg, Florida. Witnesses said Teoba collapsed and fell off the roof, landing face down in the grass. His muscles contracted so forcefully that his body turned over as his eyeballs rolled in the back of his skull. Teoba was treated in the hospital for spinal fractures, spinal cord transection, a skull base fracture and pulmonary contusions. Placed in an surgical intensive care unit on mechanical ventilation, trauma surgery, neurosurgery, and neurocritical care failed to improve his condition. Examinations were consistent with severe hypoxic brain injury, and Teoba died on June 9. His death was attributed to COVID-19.
While most coroners went along with such deceptive practices, a few spoke out.
In December 2020, Grand County, Colorado coroner Brenda Bock said that a couple who were killed in a murder-suicide were listed as such because they had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 within the previous 30 days.
"The gunshot wound killed them and it's very misleading for you to put numbers out there saying these people died from COVID when that's not what they died from,” she said, accusing the state of overstating the county’s COVID death toll. “We don't have it, and we don't need those numbers inflated."
Brock noted that this was happening throughout the state. "I got replies back from 80 percent of the coroners in the state all stating the same thing. They've all had the same problems, and these are in small counties, so it's easy for us to keep track of our numbers.”
Monroe County, Illinois Coroner Bob Hill said in May, 2021 that people were labeled COVID deaths using positive tests from many months before. “We’re seeing people on the list that they've put as a COVID death that have tested positive 9 months ago that have since recovered that have died from other issues unrelated to COVID,” Hill said. “No matter when the person was tested positive, the state is automatically giving them a death classification as related to COVID.”
‘Making my baby a statistic to try and benefit their agenda’
On occasion, grieving families spoke out.
In September 2020, a two-month-old who was born with gastroschisis, a birth defect in which a baby’s intestines develop outside the body, was declared a COVID-19 death.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, then Michigan’s chief medical executive, held a press conference. "I was so saddened to hear this week of a 2-month old baby in Michigan who died because of COVID-19, and my condolences go out to (his) parents and family,” he remarked.
The infant’s mother, outraged by Khaldun comments, published a since-deleted Facebook post accusing the government of lying about her son’s death in order to “benefit their agenda.”
One year later, Khaldun resigned and became CVS’ vice president and Chief Health Equity Officer and a member of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force under the Biden administration.
After an 81-year-old Oregon man with stage 4 cancer died in hospice care, he was listed as a COVID death, prompting his daughter Rhonda McRary to speak out.
“I mean, that’s not what he died from. He died from colon cancer, not COVID and places are listing loved ones as COVID deaths. And they're labeling that and it's just not true,” McCrary said.
In another case, a 79-year-old South Carolina woman who suffered dementia was listed as a COVID-19 death despite neither testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 nor exhibiting symptoms of the illness.
“That was wrong. She had never been tested before or after death, so I wasn’t sure how that could even be listed on her death certificate,” her granddaughter Kimberly Klosterman said.
Similarly, a 78-year-old Florida man also had COVID-19 listed on his death certificate despite multiple tests coming back negative and his medical records containing nothing about the illness.
In August 2020, Matthew Irvin, 26, was falsely announced as Yamhill County, Oregon’s youngest coronavirus death. Emergency room doctors who had examined him the night before his death blamed “COVID-like” symptoms before sending him home. Both the county and state refused the family’s request for an autopsy because of the determination that his death was related to coronavirus. However, days later, a COVID test administered during his ER visit returned negative, prompting the family to speak out, saying that Irvin might have been saved if doctors had properly diagnosed him.
"We just want the truth. We want to know exactly what happened to him. Twenty-six years old, healthy as an ox. Supposedly got COVID and he's gone in, well, three days. There's just something wrong with that," his stepfather, Michael Laheyne lamented.
In November 2020, Hal Short died 23 days after being diagnosed with aggressive lymphoma and having undergone chemotherapy. Despite testing negative for SARS-CoV-2 three times during his hospitalization, COVID-19 was listed as the cause of death on his death certificate.
“I felt like it was a slap in the face to our family, a couple of days before my dad died, we knew he was dying, me and my mom had a conversation that he had these Covid tests and they were all negative, and at that point she said, if I get his death certificate and it says COVID-19 was his cause of death I’m going to be furious,” his daughter Deborah Hughey said.
‘Deliberate acts of certificate falsification’
In April 2020, a legal imbroglio ensued when the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reclassified nursing home deaths that physicians had determined were unrelated to the virus as caused by COVID-19.
State Rep. Mark Baisley (R) wrote a letter to District Attorney George Brauchler of the 18th Judicial District, calling for a criminal investigation into the reclassification of nursing home deaths and criminal charges against Jill Ryan, the director of the state health department, accusing her of “deliberate acts of certificate falsification.”
In the wake of the scandal, Ian Dickson, a CDPHE spokesperson, told the local Fox affiliate that the policy was in line with CDC policy. “The department follows the CDC’s case definition of COVID-19 cases and deaths… When a person with a lab-confirmed case of COVID-19 dies, their death is automatically counted as a COVID-19 death unless there is another cause that completely rules out COVID-19, such as a fatal physical injury. A pre-existing illness would not rule out COVID-19.”
Tim Rogers, Executive Director at the facility, wrote a stunning admission that, in mid-April, “We were informed of their [CDPHE] intention to override some of our physician’s rulings and reclassify some resident passings we have experienced in the last few weeks.”
In another case, after the coroner determined that a man died from alcohol poisoning, the CDPHE classified the death as coronavirus-related.
“It wasn’t COVID, it was alcohol toxicity,” Deavers remarked.”Yes, he did have COVID but that is not what took his life.” The state “should have to be recording the same way I do. They have to go off the truth and facts and list it as such,” he said.
“We have been reporting, at the state, deaths among people who had COVID-19 at the time of death and the cause of that death may or may not have been COVID-19,” Dr. Eric France, CDPHE’s chief medical officer later admitted.
In June 2021, Fremont County, outgoing Wyoming Coroner Mark Stratmoen penned a scathing letter, accusing Vital Records offices across the state of altering death certificates. “Vital Records has not only violated the law, but their own rules in this regard,” he wrote. “A public trust has been violated.”
As subsequent parts of this investigation will reveal – contrary to the claims of Leana Wen – the numerous examples cited above are not exceptions to the rule, but predictable results of directives handed down from the government’s top authorities.