More than 180,000 Americans have died from a preventable disease while the Trump administration vacillates between incompetence, misdirection and denial. No wonder they’re trying to wish the deaths away.

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that nearly all of the people who die from COVID-19 have underlying health conditions — no surprise given the established facts on respiratory disease and pre-existing conditions.

But President Trump and other right-wing opinion makers are using the data to argue — in social media posts that were flagged for their dishonesty — that the coronavirus is not nearly as bad as we can plainly see with our own eyes.

In this telling, it was those other diseases that killed them, you see, so the president can’t be blamed for doing nearly nothing of substance to stop the deaths over the last several months.

Similar data have been available for months. They were around when the president used the occasion of the 100,000 American coronavirus death to tout how spectacular his response has been — a statement he made without questioning the death toll itself.

Now the official case count is 183,000 and climbing, with the actual number likely tens of thousands higher. Tens of thousands more Americans are likely to die of COVID-19 between now and Election Day, and the president isn’t even attempting to stop it. So he’s trying to make the deaths disappear.

The CDC data highlighted in recent days show that 94% of the American who died from COVID-19 Feb. 1-Aug. 22 have other health conditions that contributed to their deaths, mostly respiratory, cardiac and circulatory problems, as well as diabetes, obesity and dementia.

As has been known since the start, people with underlying health conditions are at a higher risk of becoming severely ill if they become infected with the novel coronavirus. But it is COVID-19 that causes the death, even if it does so by making worse the underlying condition — if the virus had not come along, the person would not have died.

In fact, many people live long lives managing underlying health conditions — they are not, as a population, right on death’s door, able to be pushed in by the slightest cold.

Including just heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, uncontrolled asthma, diabetes and obesity, an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that more than a third of Americans age 18 and older — 92.6 million people — have an underlying health condition. Nearly half are age 64 or under.

In Maine, 42.5% of adults have an underlying condition.

Only a relative few die each year, and nearly all will outlive the COVID crisis as long as this virus, strong enough to overcome their defenses, isn’t allowed to run free through their communities.

And they are not the only ones who have to worry. Previously healthy people who have recovered from COVID-19 are reporting heart, lung and neurological complications months later, including some Mainers in their 30s and 40s who recently spoke with the Press Herald.

You can’t wish away the death, illness and long-term complications of COVID-19. You can only slow the virus’ spread — through distancing, hygiene, face coverings, and fast, comprehensive responses to outbreaks when they’re discovered.

 


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