“When we ask if COVID killed somebody, it means ‘Did they die sooner than they would have if they didn’t have the virus?’” Lessler says. Even such a person with a potentially life-shortening preexisting condition such as heart disease or diabetes may have lived another five, 10 or more years, had they not become infected with COVID-19.
The 6 percent number touted by Trump and QAnon comes from a weekly CDC report stating that in 6 percent of the coronavirus mortality cases it counted, COVID-19 was the only condition listed on the death certificate. That observation likely means that those death certificates were incomplete because the certifiers only gave the underlying cause of death and not the full causal sequence that led to it, Anderson says. Even someone who does not have a preexisting condition and dies from COVID-19 will also have comorbidities in the form of symptoms, such as respiratory failure, caused by the coronavirus. The idea that a death certificate with ailments listed in addition to COVID-19 means that the person did not really die from the virus is simply false, Anderson says.