CDC Data Misinterpreted On Social Media

President Donald Trump retweeted misinterpreted data about coronavirus deaths. [Vasin Lee / Shutterstock]
President Donald Trump retweeted misinterpreted data about coronavirus deaths. [Vasin Lee / Shutterstock]
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Last week, the U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data that shows 6 percent of coronavirus deaths had COVID-19 listed as the only cause of death.

Over the weekend, misinformation spread on social media, retweeted by President Donald Trump, misinterpreting the data to mean that only 6 percent of coronavirus deaths were caused by the virus.

 “Like everything else in this pandemic, a lot of it’s been politicized,” Dr. Keith Armitage of University Hospitals in Cleveland said. “I think people, either intentionally or unintentionally, are misinterpreting it or spinning it in a certain way.”

Though that data shows 94 percent of people who have died from COVID-19 had underlying conditions, they could have lived much longer had they not become infected with the virus, Armitage said.

“Across the country, we’re seeing people dying of COVID who had 20 or 30 years of life left, 20 or 30 years of supporting their family or being part of their social group,” he said.

People with diabetes, hypertension and obesity—among other conditions—can live into their 70s and beyond, but Armitage said some of them are now dying much younger because of the coronavirus.

He is more surprised that the data shows 6 percent of people who died did not also have any underlying conditions.

Armitage said he has seen data misinterpreted on social media by different political groups.

“I think it’s important that people try to look at data and really try to look at the pandemic in an apolitical way, trusting public health authorities who really don’t have any agenda, other than explaining empiric reality about what’s happening,” Armitage said.

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