COVID-19 is real, and while many people have died from it, the exact count continues to be debated.
COVID is blamed for taking the lives of more than 300,000 people in the United States, even though it was revealed in April that people dying with COVID are being counted as having died from COVID.
"Let's say the virus caused you to go to the ICU and then have a heart or kidney problem," then-White House Coronarivus Response Team Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx told reporters Tuesday, April 7th, 2020. "Some countries are recording that as a heart issue or a kidney issue and not a COVID-19 death, but we are counting that as a COVID-19 death."
The case of Congressman-elect Luke Letlow (R-Louisiana), who was battling the virus at the time of his death, may serve as a current example of this. While the Associated Press reports that he died from COVID-19, the New York Post reports that he actually died from a heart attack while undergoing a procedure.
Earlier this week, two Minnesota state legislators, one of them a physician, told "Fox & Friends" they have "clear-cut examples" of people dying from something other than COVID, only to have their deaths be counted as COVID deaths.
"We found clear-cut examples from the Minnesota Department of Health's own files -- public records -- of suicide, a drowning, an auto accident where the passenger was ejected from the vehicle, dementia, and strokes," Rep Mary Franson (R-District 08B) outlined. "I was so shocked at what I found that I just could not keep silent."
"This is perhaps something the public doesn't understand, but it has been clear from the very beginning that the CDC really loosened up the definition of death when it comes to COVID," responds Twila Brase, RN and president/co-founder of Minnesota-based Citizens' Council on Health Freedom. "The CDC essentially let doctors, and it actually encourages them to, put COVID down as a contributing factor to the death."
Doctor and Senator Scott Jensen (R-47) told "Fox & Friends" that money may have been a factor for that.
"If you could hit a threshold of 161 admissions to your hospital with COVID-19 diagnosis between January and June, you received $77,000 of additional money for each one of those admissions," said Jensen.
Brase is not ruling it out.
"If you just take a look at some of the spreadsheets that show you how much money is available for someone who is diagnosed with COVID-19, you will see the incentives," Brase explains. "There is an incentive of $50,000 per COVID-diagnosed patient. There is another incentive of nearly $77,000, and there is another incentive of a 20% increase in reimbursements for any Medicare patient who is diagnosed with COVID-19."
USA Today did a fact check in April on the notion that hospitals get paid more if patients are listed as COVID-19 and are on ventilators:
We rate the claim that hospitals get paid more if patients are listed as COVID-19 and on ventilators as TRUE.
Hospitals and doctors do get paid more for Medicare patients diagnosed with COVID-19 or if it's considered presumed they have COVID-19 absent a laboratory-confirmed test, and three times more if the patients are placed on a ventilator to cover the cost of care and loss of business resulting from a shift in focus to treat COVID-19 cases.
This is not to disregard the fact that COVID-19 can be deadly in some cases. The passing of Congressman-elect Luke Letlow (R-Louisiana), regardless of whether it was from the virus or a heart attack, is being called a "tragedy" by Dr. Amy Givler, a family physician in Monroe, Louisiana who attended church with Letlow.
"It's just so sad," she tells One News Now.
Letlow was "41 years old and healthy" according to Dr, Givler, and people in that age range, especially those with no preexisting health problems, rarely die from COVID.
"But it's happening," Dr. Givler continues. "And it's not just about dying; it's the lingering symptoms after COVID that seem to be hitting younger people more."
A young person may recover from the virus and still deal with shortness of breath, muscle aches, headaches, and/or brain fog, "and a lot of people have a long time before their sense of taste and smell return to normal," the physician relays.
And while Dr. Givler adds that some things will eventually become normal again, she points out that "there are people who got this in March who are still having lingering symptoms, and we in the medical profession do not know if it's going to be like that for years. We just do not know."
Upon hearing the news of Letlow’s death, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) tweeted in a video that it "just brings home COVID can kill. For most folks it doesn't, but it truly can," he continued. "So as you remember Luke, his widow, his children in your prayers, remember as well to be careful with COVID."