Rumor Control: Summit Co. Health responds to viral misinterpretation of CDC report

Posted at 6:38 PM, Sep 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-04 19:17:21-04

SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio — Every day, News 5 provides an update on the latest number of coronavirus cases, deaths, hospitalizations, ICU admissions and positive COVID-19 tests in our area and across the state.

We get that data from our state and local health departments — some of whom are now saying they want to put rumors to rest.

Earlier this week, data from the CDC about coronavirus deaths went viral. The report said “only” 6% of reported COVID-19 deaths were caused by COVID-19, and the other 94% were people with chronic illnesses. That report led to a lot of misinformation about inflated numbers that experts say they want to clear up.

“We were extremely concerned there was misinformation out there,” said Donna Skoda, the Summit County Health Commissioner. She said her department was worried about the confusion, so they put out a “rumor versus reality” Facebook post to help provide some clarity.

“There seems to be a lot of confusion that we’re inflating numbers and that we’re not telling the truth, when, in fact, that person would be still alive if they had not contracted COVID-19,” Skoda said, adding that her department often gets accusations of inflating COVID numbers or fear-mongering. She believes those accusations are unfair to those who are sick, are dying, or have family suffering.

“It seems as though we’ve lost the empathy and the kindness towards each other that if you have an underlying disease and you get COVID, ‘Oh well, he’s dead,’ and that’s not how we should be thinking about this,” she said.

The end of the Facebook post reads: “You may not like us. You may have decided you don’t trust us. However, our popularity or lack thereof will not deter us from doing the best we can to promote actions and policies that protect the health of our entire population.”

The health commissioner says reaction to the post has been 50-50, like most things are. Half the people still believe they’re lying about COVID numbers, while the other half is thanking them for the clarity and information.

You can read more about how the CDC report is being misunderstood in an article on LiveScience here.