Reported by C. Douglas Golden |July 8, 2021
Imagine if someone had said these words in October:
“In the midst of everything COVID, people were sort of putting down that cause of death as COVID … It is important to go back and do this accounting to see if COVID was actually the cause of death.”
It would have taken five minutes for Snopes and PolitiFact to cancel this person entirely. They would have been branded a conspiracy theorist, a blackguard, a scoundrel. If they had any platform, it would be taken away posthaste. You could even make a case there would be Facebook and Twitter censorship involved — this being COVID-19 misinformation, after all.
But those words were spoken Friday by University of California San Francisco professor of medicine Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert. She was speaking to San Francisco’s KPIX-TV regarding the announcement that Santa Clara County, California, had revised its official COVID-19 death toll downward by 22 percent.
According to KPIX, the announcement was made after the county “refined its approach in reporting the data.”
Santa Clara County — home to San Jose in the heart of Silicon Valley — is the sixth-largest among California’s 58 counties in terms of population, with 1,927,470 residents, according to U.S. Census Bureau data compiled by Cubit.
This isn’t minor, in other words.
Before refining its approach, the county had recorded 2,201 COVID deaths. Now, that’s been reduced to 1,696.
“It is important to go back and do this accounting to see if COVID was actually the cause of death,” Gandhi said, according to KPIX.
“I think that transparent communication is an upside, I mean, in the sense that it’s true that if we did this across the nation, it would bring our death rate lower. A downside of that, could be that people will say, ‘Well, it wasn’t as serious as you said.’”
Gandhi added she thought this was going to encourage coronavirus vaccine holdouts to get vaccinated.
“Because a lot of people have kind of said, ‘I’ve heard people are dying anyway of COVID, what’s the point?’ And it is very important to say, ‘No, did they die of COVID or were they in the hospital for something else and they died of that?’” Gandhi said. “That helps people say, ‘Oh, the risk of breakthrough infection is so low I want to go ahead and get vaccinated.’ So I think it’s very good for vaccine hesitancy.”
Santa Clara County wasn’t the only county in California to reassess its data, either. According to KGO-TV, Alameda County revised its numbers downward in early June, saying it had an over-count of COVID deaths greater than 400 individuals. On June 4, the number of deaths in the Bay Area county attributed to COVID-19 dropped from 1,634 to 1,223. Alameda County, home to Oakland and Berkeley, is the seventh-largest in the state in terms of population with 1,656,754 residents.
“According to the Health Department, the 25% decrease was made to comply with the state’s definition of a COVID-19 death, which requires COVID-19 to be a direct or contributing factor or a situation in which it can’t be ruled out,” KGO reported.
“Alameda County previously included any person who died while infected with the virus in the total COVID-19 deaths for the County,” wrote Neetu Balram with the Alameda County Health Department in a news release dated June 4.
By way of example, Balram wrote:
“Using the older definition of COVID-19 deaths, a resident who had COVID-19 but died due to another cause, like a car accident, this person would be included in the total number of reported COVID-19 deaths for Alameda County. Under the updated definition of COVID-19 deaths, this person would not be included in the total because COVID-19 was not a contributing factor in the death.”
At the time, another doctor at the University of California San Francisco, epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford, told KGO he was “betting it’s very specific to Alameda County, which had a lot of cases early on and had to do a lot of on-the-fly definitions and systems and now they are being brought into alignment.”
Gandhi apparently didn’t think that was the case after Santa Clara reported its revised total. KPIX reported that “Gandhi believes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may soon ask all counties to do the same as Alameda and Santa Clara Counties and that the nation could also see a drop in its COVID-19 death toll.”
This is what voices — mostly conservative voices — have been saying for over a year. Even raising the issue, however, got one branded as a conspiracy theorist.
Take the state of Washington. In May 2020, during a media briefing, Dr. Katie Hutchinson of the Washington State Department of Health announced that some people who obviously hadn’t died of COVID were being included in the state’s death totals.
“We currently do have some deaths that are being reported that are clearly from other causes,” Hutchinson said. “We have about five deaths — less than five deaths — that we know of that are related to obvious other causes. In this case, they are from gunshot wounds.”
If there were five deaths that they could identify as just being from gunshot wounds — out of 1,078 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the state at the time — that still doesn’t speak well of the state’s reporting mechanisms. That means, as the conservative think tank Freedom Foundation pointed out at the time, there were likely individuals who died of other causes more anodyne than a gunshot wound who were being counted among COVID deaths.
Yet, Washington Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee blasted anyone who questioned whether there was over-counting going on.
“The problem is you got some people out there who are fanning these conspiracy claims from the planet Pluto,” Inslee said, according to KOMO-TV. “And it’s just disgusting what they’re trying to say of all these crazy deep-state malarkey. Who are kinda suggests that this not a problem in our state. I find that hard to accept with the number of dead in our state. So, that’s a problem. And I hope it gets resolved.”
This is such “deep-state malarkey” that jurisdictions now revising their COVID death toll downward include [checks notes] two famously liberal Bay Area counties in California, one home to Berkeley and the other the center of Silicon Valley. These stories were out there if you looked — individuals who died of gunshot wounds or motorcycle accidents that were counted as COVID victims. If you raised questions, however, you were branded a conspiracy theorist.
Even now, Gandhi seems to lament the fact Santa Clara County’s deaths have been revised downward: “A downside of that, could be that people will say, ‘Well, it wasn’t as serious as you said,’” she told KPIX.
Why would that be your reaction? And, perhaps more importantly, why would nobody with a brain be surprised to hear the same reaction from editors, politicians and members of the medical and scientific communities?
After a year of lockdowns based on an unholy alliance among untruthful media, scientists with zero sense and a power-hungry left, we’re left with the conclusion that big numbers drove public policy in a direction all of these entities wanted — in an election year when the left was tarring the sitting president with blame for all things COVID.
While the numbers weren’t ginned up to create a crisis that didn’t exist, it’s not as if politicians and scientists acted with alacrity to fix obvious deficiencies in reporting COVID deaths, either. Santa Clara and Alameda Counties are emblematic of how wrong some jurisdictions got it.
They’re not the only ones.
C. Douglas Golden, Contributor,
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he’s written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.