Debunking the conspiracy theory accusing Minnesota of inflating COVID-19 numbers
Living through COVID-19 is stressful. In a time like this we need to be able to look to our leaders for guidance and hope. In order to provide those things, we all need to at least agree on some basic facts. On April 9th, Senator Mark Johnson shared a video which claims the state of Minnesota is manipulating death certificates in order to artificially inflate our COVID-19 numbers.
Senator Johnson added in his own words, “The reality is, our own state government is perpetuating and exaggerating the dangers associated with the current situation needlessly.” We need to take a moment to talk about the reality of the National CDC death certificate guidelines and the nature of Minnesota’s current COVID-19 statistics.
The claim that Senator Johnson is promoting is that because physicians are being instructed that they may put COVID-19 as a cause of death on a death certificate even without a positive COVID-19 test, that it is allowing the total deaths to be artificially inflated. The claim stems from this line:
“In cases where a definite diagnosis of COVID–19 cannot be made, but it is suspected or likely (e.g., the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty), it is acceptable to report COVID–19 on a death certificate as ‘probable’ or ‘presumed.’” If you would like to read the full document for yourself, you may do so at this link.
There are four vital facts to keep in mind:
1. That document came from the national CDC, not any health organization in Minnesota. So Senator Johnson’s claim would have to be that the Trump administration is trying to inflate the numbers because these are national guidelines not state guidelines.
2. The only individual allowed to fill out or edit a death certificate is a doctor. That means this claim that somehow the state government is exaggerating numbers can’t really be true. In reality Senator Johnson is accusing Minnesota doctors of committing fraud and lying.
3. Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm has been clear that the 50 Minnesotans who have died of COVID-19 as of April 9th have all received positive tests. That means that no one who has had the disease listed as a probable or presumed cause is being included in the official tally and therefore the numbers can’t be inflated using this method.
4. Minnesota ranks as the safest state in the country in terms of total COVID-19 cases per capita. If we were inflating our numbers, we wouldn’t be showing the best health outcomes of any state in the union.
I want to especially emphasize that last point. As of April 9th, Minnesota has had 1,242 confirmed cases of COVID-19 while our neighbor Iowa has had 1,270 cases. Iowa has more cases despite having half our state’s population. If there was a conspiracy by Governor Walz’s administration to inflate numbers, we wouldn’t be seeing the massive success of Walz’s policy as shown in how low our numbers are.
I need to address something else Senator Johnson said in his Facebook post too. “Our families, businesses, churches, and hospitals are suffering TREMENDOUSLY with little hope for relief in sight.” It is the Senator’s job to work towards the exact type of relief he is claiming that there is little hope of. Additionally, spreading conspiracies and misinformation only serves to make the whole situation worse.
Soon our state and our nation will come through this, but more of us will safely see the other side if our leaders stick with fact based policy making and I would encourage Senator Johnson to do just that.