Why “Died Of” And “Died With” Isn’t Actually A Meaningful Distinction
On 7/3/1981, The New York Times ran an article containing the headline “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals.” The “rare cancer” the article was talking about was later found to be an illness called Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS.
The AIDS epidemic — known for its disproportionate impact on homosexuals to the point where it was first called gay-related immune deficiency (GRID) — was one of the defining crises of the 1980s. As of 2018, 700,000 Americans have died with the illness, with millions more being effected worldwide, and millions more have died globally — most notably in the continent of Africa. (Some estimates go so far as to suggest that roughly one percent of the global population has either HIV or AIDS, HIV being the virus that becomes AIDS if left untreated.)
However, despite one of the most infamous viruses of the twentieth century, nobody has ever actually died directly of AIDS. AIDS attacks your immune system, something it is perfectly possible to live without. What actually kills people with AIDS is other illnesses they come into contact with — albeit illnesses they likely would not have killed them had AIDS not first heavily weakened their immune systems.
I mention this because on 1/9/2022 CDC Director Rochelle Walensky was asked in an interview with Fox News host Bret Baier what percent of the current COVID-19 death count died “of COVID-19” and what percent died “with COVID-19.” The implication is that these people died of something else and them having COVID-19 was nothing more than a coincidence. However, for reasons established above, that’s like saying somebody died with AIDS and not because of AIDS. We know COIVD-19 takes a lot of work for the human body to fight off, and puts a large amount of stress on the immune system. As such, it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that quite a large number of the people who died “with” it died of things they would not have died of otherwise had they not had it.
The following day, Walensky said that three quarters of COVID-19 deaths had four or more comorbidities. At time of writing, the CDC currently lists various different types as COVID-19 comorbidities, including mood disorders such as depression, “substance use disorders,” and being overweight. With how much counts as a comorbidity, it would not surprise me to find out that most Americans have at least one. Has every American who died with some kind of comorbidity actually died “with” COVID-19 and not “of” COVID-19?
The fact is, if someone died with COVID-19 in their system and would not have died had COVID-19 not been in their system, that should count as a death from COVID-19. We can talk about comorbidities all we want, but only a small handful of the illnesses the CDC lists under that category would be fatal on their own.
Many of the things listed as comorbidities involve major parts of your body simply not working — such as diabetes (which means your pancreas isn’t working), asthma (which means your lungs aren’t working), and various heart conditions. However, roughly eleven percent of the population is diabetic (which one percent of the population having type one diabetes, meaning their pancreas simply does not work at all), eight percent of Americans have asthma, and and roughly fifteen percent have at least some heart problem.
Now, this is not me saying that it was only COVID-19 that killed these people, that would be ridiculous. Commonly, there seems to be a false dichotomy present where you either say it was only COVID-19 that killed someone or it had no relation to COVID-19. However, topics like health and why people die are commonly much more complicated than that. And again, the fact that so many people different illnesses can count as COVID-19 comorbidities certainly shows that the virus is more dangerous than most of the ones I’ve come across.
The fact is, if these deaths had nothing to do with COVID-19, that wouldn’t explain why the vast majority of the people both hospitalized and killed with COVID-19 in their system are unvaccinated — which the CDC does not list as a comorbidity in spite of the fact that unvaccinated people who catch COVID-19 are far more likely to die than people with any of the things they list as a comorbidity.
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