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SPECIAL REPORT: Is the reported COVID-19 death toll being overstated?

SPECIAL REPORT: Is the reported COVID-19 death toll being overstated?

We are now seeing an exceptionally large disparity between the projected death rate of COVID-19 – originally more than 2 million fatalities – to the latest assessment by the medical professions – possibly lower than 100,000. Personally, I would be surprised if the final total would exceed 100,000 – but that would depend on when a “final” count was to be determined. In August? Or after the next flu season?

They explain the disparity was the result of the American people’s dedication to social separation and other preventive measures. That would explain some of the reduction, but I suspect the model that predicted the huge number was just an outlier – wrong.

Throughout this pandemic, there have been questions as to how the actual death rate is being counted.  The world community seems to agree that the extraordinarily low case-rate and death-rate in China is a monumental lie – a trait the Communist regime has exhibited over and over again.

On the other side of the coin, is the American death rate running too high – not because of a national policy of disinformation, but because of cumulative reasons on the ground?

Almost from the onset, there have been questions about the accuracy of the number of deaths.  One issue is whether a person died FROM COVID-19 or WITH it.  For example, there was an anecdotal case of a toddler who died from an accident at home – and who was found to have had COVID-19. Her death was listed as “due to” the virus.

There is also a grey area in which it is not so easy to determine if a COVID-19 infected person died from the disease.  This is particularly the case in the disproportionately large number of very old and very sick seniors already in the final days of life. There has been a tendency to list COVID-19 as the cause on the death certificate solely because they had the virus.

To understand the dynamic of overreporting COVID-19 death it is necessary to go past the sensationalized and politicized news media reports.  What you learn from the news is likely to be inaccurate, at best, and contrived disinformation, at worst.

A case in point.

You may recall that on April 13, the media reported an extraordinarily high death rate – with 6,185 people supposedly expiring on that day.  That was far above the plateau-rate of approximately two thousand per day — and declining.  That high figure was widely interpreted as being an indication that COVID-19 was far from over.  It was used to lambast President Trump for his lack of seriousness at the onset and his hope to lift some restrictions in the near future. The problem is that all those hyped reports were wrong … wrong … wrong.

According to worldometer – one of the most respected statistical tracking organizations – the figure for April 14 was actually included total from New York City that included deaths from several previous days.  Even worse!  There was no evidence that those deaths were from COVID-19.

According to worldometter, 3,778 of the cases were from New York City alone – and they were an accumulation of deaths since April 11.  Those four days were crammed into the April 14 figure.

But it gets worse … far worse.

According to the New York City Health Department of Health, the deceased “had no known positive laboratory test for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) but the death certificate lists as a cause of death “COVID-19.”  Consider that.

We are often told that we must rely on FACTS.  Yet thousands of deaths were determined to be based on what they call “probability.”  In these cases, they did not know if the decedents even had COVID-19.  Regardless, the Washington Post continues to show a graph that portrays an alarming spike on April 14 without explanation – fearmongering at its best.

In fact, if you dig deeper, you will discover that the New York City Health Department reports both “confirmed” and “probable” cases on a regular basis.  Here are the reported figures on April 13.

Characteristic Confirmed Probable Age Group   

AGE                       CONFIRMED       PROBABLE

0 to 17  3 (0%)                  0 (0%)

18 to 44                301 (4.6%)           57 (3.0%)

45 to 64                1529 (23.2%)      453 (23.5%)

65 to 74                1611 (24.4%)      455 (23.6%)

75 and over        3145 (47.7%)      962 (49.9%)

You will note that 1,927 of the cases are “probable.  That means 28 percent of the cases across the age categories are not confirmed as having died FROM COVID-19.  In the oldest group – as would be expected — half the deaths are not confirmed to be from COVID-19.  Those folks may have just died WITH COVID-19 – or may not even have had the virus.

The problem is not unique to New York City.  Washington State uses an “unassigned” category to record deaths.  The numbers are often re-adjusted after the initial report.  A footnote in the April 13 worldometer summary stated: NOTE: In its breakdown by county, Washington State uses an “Unassigned” field with a varying amount. We adjusted April 12 figures based on the latest “Unassigned” report.”

In Michigan, worldometer added this footnote.

“Michigan Health Department published an incorrect total number of cases (26,638 instead of 24,638).”  That is 2000 cases that did not happen.

For Florida, there was this footnote.

“NOTE: For the most part of the day, there was a mistake on the Florida Health Department Official website, indicating 533 deaths. Later during the day, it was changed to 458 on the Florida Department of Health dashboard before being finally changed to 446.” 

That was a 16 percent overstatement.

It does appear that a reasonable case can be made for overreporting deaths.  But why?  There are two possibilities.  Honest mistakes in an overly complex situation.  That would be more credible If it did not appear that all the mistakes occur in one direction – attributing unconfirmed and unrelated deaths to COVID-19.

It is more likely that the overreporting is due to human nature – and perhaps even political motivations.  By the very nature of the process, institutions seeking government money almost always overstate the problem.  It is also possible that medical professionals and coroners with political biases are more prone to expand the scope of the crisis as a slam against the Trump administration.

Those are not accusations – or empirical evidence.  It is just an attempt to explore what may be behind these errors and imprecise reports.  If the examples in this commentary reflect the situation across the nation, the reported death toll due to COVID-19 could be off by tens of thousands.

Unfortunately, the major media is not about to investigate something that does not fit their preconceived narratives,

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. Mary

    Those NYC figures, I wonder how many really died from cancer or a heart attack. Supposedly Medicare is giving hospitals money if they admit a covid 19 patient and more money if that person needed to go on a ventilator. This is what these figures are all about the almighty dollar. Does not make sense that people did not die from cancer or other things but only the virus. Even if they had the virus slightly, if they had cancer or something else the death was caused by the virus. NO WAY NY

  2. R. Hamilton

    Even those not seeking resources and without partisan motivation could overstate, due to CYA, not wanting to be accused of understating.

    And even if the death count is semi-accurate, the mortality rate (percentage of the infected that die) may be much lower than generally thought, perhaps only twice that of the flu even without any extraordinary precautions, and with precautions, effectively less than that, given less flu, traffic accidents, etc.

    Some recent mass testing in a couple of areas indicate a LOT of people without symptoms but with the antibody indicating exposure. That means the percentage dying following exposure is much lower. It _may_ meant that many of those have acquired immunity.

    We’d have to do massive antibody testing (only available and approved very recently, it’ll take at least a week or two to scale up, probably longer) to know one way or the other. It would also be helpful to have maximum information on those who have severe symptoms or die, so as to improve the understanding of who the vulnerable are (type A blood seems to be more vulnerable, and there may be genetic or other factors). Once we can better identify them, we can sooner switch to self-isolation and protection for them, rather than for everyone.

  3. Vincent Lovely

    The original numbers are probably the numbers China gave the Obama administration when his administration first paid for the virus in 2015. It was a contingency plan for when their agenda was failing. Obama’s communist agenda was falling apart, hence the virus got released. The Chinese government doesn’t mind if they lose a few million of their citizens, that makes it easier for them to say they didn’t cause it. The leftist don’t care about the country only power.

  4. Eli

    I read an article by a high profile person, making gains in the political world, who stated that the hospitals are being paid for their COViD patients. I asked if nursing homes were paid, also, since the news media said a nursing home had 33 death from January, inclusive of COVID numbers. The COVID state chart shows that 33 states had less than 300 deaths, and a low percentage of cases in each. An article on testing equaled out the numbers of high seasonal flu cases, despite vaccinations. The New York City panic was over 0.1 percent fatalities which was the same as the flu. This was according the Stanford Research reports which need to be shown to get people back to work. As Dr. Phil said, we have higher numbers of death with smokers, and I would venture to say with drinkers as well. So why is America wanting to hide?

  5. Rich

    China recently raised their deceased count by 50% and China’s buddies, Gov. Cuomo and Mayor BigBird, followed suit with the 50% increase in NYC/State.

    Cuomo hired a company with ties to China to advise them on what to do to bring our economy back (actually they will be advised on how to create a Recession or Depression, China Style) and this massive increased count was their first advice . . . direct from XI Jinping.

    Xi’s next directions will be for Andrew and Fredo to act even sillier than they currently are.


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