The United States’ method for accounting the number of coronavirus-related deaths has come under fire in recent weeks, but Dr. Deborah Birx said the data has been transparent on what counts as a coronavirus-related death.
Dr. Birx acknowledged on both Tuesday and Wednesday that those with pre-existing health conditions make up a majority of those who are included in the COVID-19 death figures, but added that it is underlying conditions combined with COVID-19 infection that make the virus particularly troublesome for some.
“We have heard both sides,” Dr. Birx said. “We have made it clear about the comorbidities. Most of the people -- and we talked about the Italy data -- the majority of Italians who succumbed to this had three or more comorbidities. This has been known from the beginning. Those individuals will have an underlying condition, but that underlying condition did not cause their acute death when related to a COVID infection. In fact, it is the opposite. Having an underlying condition and getting this virus is particularly damaging to those individuals.”
Dr. Birx said that the White House coronavirus task force and health officials are trying to better understand the virus to give everyone a better idea of how fatal this virus is.
“These are things we have studied for a long time,” Dr. Birx said. “We are trying to understand the pathophysiology. What we can tell you at this moment is if you have asthma, renal disease, diabetes, hypertension, these are pre-existing conditions that put you at a greater risk to having a worse outcome.”
Infectious decease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci dismissed some of the criticism as “conspiracy theories.”
“I can assure you we have so much to do to protect the welfare of the American people that I hope we put that conspiracy stuff -- let somebody write a book about them later, but not now,” Dr. Fauci said.
President Donald Trump said that he believes the death counts published by state health organizations, Johns Hopkins University and the CDC are accurate.
“I think they are pretty accurate,” Trump said. “Somebody dies. I think the states have been pretty accurate. That's a big deal, what you just said the death counts, I think they are very accurate.”
Justin Boggs is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @jjboggs or on Facebook .