Fact check: More than 300,000 Americans die from COVID-19

With more than 300,000 deaths from the coronavirus in the United States, social media posts claim: ‘A virus did NOT kill 300,000 Americans. Age has. Pharmaceutical products have. Processed food has. Pesticides have. Hospitals and ventilators have. Lack of proper nutrition, sunlight and exercise did. Some of these things may contribute to existing conditions that make serious diseases of COVID-19 more likely. However, these deaths were caused by the new coronavirus.

Reuters fact check. REUTERS

Social media reports making this claim can be found here, here and here.

As stated here on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s “Provisional Death Counts for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)” page, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned for 6% of the recorded deaths in the American coronavirus. In other words, more than 16,500 of the more than 276,061 processed death certificates included in the CDC’s provisional death rate listed only COVID-19 as the cause of death (here – Comorbidities).

At the end of August, social media users falsely claimed that the CDC had “quietly updated” its COVID-19 data to admit that only 6% of the … (US) deaths actually recorded to (COVID-19) died. “The Reuters Fact Check team settled the claim here.

These claims, like the reports in this article, do not address the nuance of comorbidities (the existence of two or more conditions or diseases in a patient). It does not exclude COVID-19, but combines it with other conditions, including those caused by the new coronavirus itself.


The leftmost column in the CDC comorbidities dataset (here – Comorbidities) already contains existing conditions that increase the risk of serious COVID-19 diseases, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes (here).

For example, 21% of the COVID-19 deaths recorded in the CDC’s preliminary count on December 12 listed hypertensive diseases (high blood pressure) on their death certificates (see Table 3 here). WebMD says here that chronic health conditions, such as hypertension, weaken the immune system, making it less effective at fighting SARS-CoV-2. The use of ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) – medicines used to treat high blood pressure – may also pose a higher risk to this population.

Meanwhile, diabetes accounted for 16% of the COVID-19 deaths recorded in the CDC’s preliminary score on their death certificates (see Table 3 here). A CDC analysis of more than 10,000 COVID-19 deaths in 15 states and New York City from February to May showed that nearly 40% of people who died with COVID-19 had diabetes (here, here ).

Lack of proper nutrition and exercise, as well as the consumption of processed foods, contribute to many of the health-related comorbidities that put someone at higher risk for serious complications of COVID-19.

To better understand the relationship between underlying factors and COVID-19 comorbidity, Reuters spoke in September with Dr. Marc Larsen, a drug in emergency medicine in the St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Kansas (here), chats. He said doctors usually use a standard format to fill out death certificates and name the primary cause of death as well as other contributing factors (here).

He made a comparison with someone dying of a gunshot wound, whose death certificate may mention gunshot wounds, along with hemorrhagic shock and laser smear, as causes of death, with homelessness (associated with greater exposure to possible violence, here), as a contributing factor. For someone who has died of COVID-19, the death certificate COVID-19, as well as pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) can be read as causes of death, with diabetes and hypertension as contributing factors.

Larsen said the deaths in both cases “without the two triggers”, a gunshot wound and COVID-19, “would not have occurred. Nothing that appeared after the primary diagnoses would have occurred if it were not for the primary event. In these examples, the patients did not die directly because they were homeless or had diabetes with hypertension, but it did contribute factors. ”


The reports claim that ‘age’, rather than the new coronavirus, killed the elderly Americans who died with COVID-19. As seen in Table 1 (here), 80% of the COVID-19 deaths recorded by the CDC between the week ending February 1 and the week ending December 12 were older than 65 years.

Older people have a much greater risk of being hospitalized and dying of COVID-19 than younger people (here, here). As explained here by Scientific American, age makes human bodies less likely to fight infection.

Although age increases the risk of developing serious diseases due to COVID-19, which means hospitalization, intensive care, use of a ventilator or even death, it is still the new coronavirus that causes these complications.


The social media posts cite hospitals and ventilators as causes of death for COVID-19 patients.

Since the early days of the pandemic, doctors have re-evaluated the use of mechanical ventilators for the treatment of those with severe symptoms.

On April 23, Reuters (here) reported on the continuing shift away from ventilator use, as doctors, after the initial wave of COVID-19 cases, had time to explore other ways to manage the disease.

Some doctors said the impression that the rush to ventilate is harmful may be due in part to the large number of patients in the current pandemic. People who work in intensive care units know that the mortality rate is about 40% of patients with intubation. It is high, but seems normal in normal times when there are three or four patients in a unit and one of them does not survive.

Dr. Thomas Nash, an internist, pulmonologist and infectious disease specialist at New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York (here), told Reuters by telephone that ventilators also do not save lives, but not all respiratory problems that require ventilation , is the same. , and should not be treated as such.

By May, front-line workers in COVID-19 epicenter centers like New York had learned to use ventilators optimally for sufferers of the new coronavirus.


Social media reports claim that a lack of sunlight, rather than the new coronavirus, is a cause of death for COVID-19 patients. This claim may refer to a possible link between vitamin D deficiency and COVID-19 deaths.

As reported here in a December 16 fact check by USA Today, a study from the University of Heidelberg, Germany, found a link between vitamin D deficiency and increased COVID-19 deaths. But USA Today concluded that the observational study proved ‘association but not causality’.

As noted here in a 2012 study published in the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as increased susceptibility to infection. ‘

As is the case with existing conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity, vitamin D deficiency would be a contributing factor rather than the direct cause of death for someone who died with COVID-19.


Untrue. SARS-CoV-2 infection is the leading cause of death for the more than 300,000 Americans who died with COVID-19. Although age, poor diet, and lack of exercise can contribute to conditions that increase someone’s chances of dying from COVID-19, it is still the virus that kills them.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.