Twitter on Sunday took down a tweet containing a false claim about coronavirus death statistics that was made by a supporter of the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory – a post that President Donald Trump had retweeted earlier in the day.
The tweet – which has been replaced with a message saying, “This Tweet is no longer available because it violated the Twitter Rules – from “Mel Q,” copied from someone else’s Facebook post, claimed that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had “quietly” updated its numbers “to admit that only 6%” of people listed as coronavirus deaths “actually died from Covid,” since “the other 94% had 2-3 other serious illnesses.”
That’s not what the CDC said.
As of Sunday at 4 p.m. ET, Twitter had not removed a second tweet, also retweeted by the President on Sunday, that spread the same false claim. The second tweet, by Trump campaign adviser Jenna Ellis, linked to an article on the right-wing website Gateway Pundit that was based on the QAnon supporter’s tweet.
CNN has reached out to the White House for comment on Trump’s retweets.
The CDC’s latest regular update to a public statistics page on the pandemic – there was nothing especially “quiet” about it – said that for 6% of the deaths included in its statistics, “Covid-19 was the only cause mentioned” on the deceased person’s death certificate.
That is not at all the same thing as saying only 6% of reported Covid-19 deaths “actually died” from Covid-19. It simply means that the other 94% were listed as having at least one additional factor contributing to their death.
For example, the other 94% includes people whose death certificate listed both Covid-19 and obesity, both Covid-19 and diabetes, or both Covid-19 and heart disease – among other conditions.
People can live with obesity, diabetes or heart disease for years but then get infected with Covid-19 and die quickly. The fact that they also had an underlying condition does not mean that Covid-19 was not a major reason, or the major reason, they died when they did.
There is no secret about the fact that pre-existing health conditions can cause people to experience more severe problems from Covid-19. The CDC has long said that older adults and people with other underlying health conditions are more likely to become seriously ill.
Its statistics page currently says that for “deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death.”
The CDC told CNN in July that Covid-19 will end up as a Top 10 cause of death for 2020. The final ranking from the CDC will be based on death certificates for the calendar year. Based on the top causes from 2018, the most recent year available, Covid-19 ranks third behind heart disease and cancer.
Trump shared the false information with his 85 million-plus followers. As of 1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, the now deleted “Mel Q” tweet Trump amplified had been retweeted more than 48,000 times.
At least 182,885 people have died from coronavirus in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
CNN’s Jason Hoffman contributed to this report.