Metro health experts say new CDC report on COVID-19 deaths is misleading

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The CDC released a new report about coronavirus deaths, and it’s reigniting a controversy over COVID-19 statistics.

The agency notes that 94% of COVID-19 deaths were patients with what it calls “contributing conditions.”

However, metro experts argue those numbers are misleading.

Dr. Rex Archer, the director of the Kansas City Heath Department, said the underlying conditions are listed to help doctors learn more about the virus and track the bigger picture over time.

“If that was all that was listed on the death certificate, it wouldn’t help us in really seeing what’s happening in our population. We wouldn’t have figured out how smoking increases the risk of smoking and cancer and heart disease,” Archer said.

Experts say the data is in the eye of the beholder, and they are seeing higher numbers of younger, generally healthy people in the hospital.

The numbers are based on death certificate data, and professionals say it clearly tells a story.

Dr. Diane Peterson, the medical examiner for Johnson County said some of the contributing conditions were caused by the virus itself.

“In my language, underlying conditions mean some conditions that were there beforehand and are playing a role. But if you look at that list — clearly, cardiac arrest and respiratory arrest were not existing in that person years before they got COVID,” Peterson said.

“I think when we think of an older population with co-morbid conditions, it’s not that person laying on their death bed. It’s actually our dads, our uncles and our grandpas that are in that age range and risk category of COVID-19,” said Cristi Bartlett, a palliative care doctor with the University of Kansas Health System.

In Kansas City, Archer said for the last five years they have had no deaths without a contributing factor — that includes car crashes and homicides.

“Don’t get manipulated by folks that are playing with your health and with the health of our city and nation,” Archer said.

“People need to wear their masks, and they need to be diligent about it. They can’t look at a list like this and think, ‘I don’t have anything on this list. I’m good,'” Peterson said.

Peterson said a huge thing to look at is, even if people survive COVID-19, they can have possibly long-lasting medical difficulties.

All three professionals said wearing a mask is as important as it ever was during this pandemic and ask everyone to think of the community’s wellbeing.

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