CDC data on COVID deaths reinforces message to at-risk populations, RIDOH says


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that just 6% of COVID-19 related fatalities in the United States listed the virus as the person’s sole cause of death.

While this means 94% of people who died from COVID-19 had underlying health conditions, medical experts say this doesn’t mean the virus is any less lethal.

Dr. James McDonald, medical director for the Rhode Island Department of Health, said the data confirms what they’ve been saying all along.

“When anyone passes away, it’s rare that there’s just one reason they passed away,” McDonald said. “Most people have a cause of death and then a contributing cause of death, so when I looked at the CDC information, I was like, ‘Ho hum, this is what we already knew.'”

“The majority of people who die when they have COVID have pre-existing conditions,” he continued. “We know in Rhode Island, when we’ve looked at our data, about 90% have died because of COVID and that’s the main reason they passed away.”

He said the “vast majority” of that group also had underlying conditions.

“I think all that’s referring to is what we’ve told everyone from the beginning, is there are high-risk populations that are more likely to pass away from COVID,” he said.

McDonald reiterated that those populations usually contain people who are older than 65 or have conditions like hypertension, diabetes or obesity. He said he hopes the data reinforces to those populations that they can make changes to their personal health.

To put COVID-19 into context, McDonald said that for every one flu-related death last year, there have been more than 50 connected to the coronavirus this year.

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