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WATCH: Fauci Dismisses ‘Conspiracy Theories’ About ‘Inflated’ COVID-19 Death Toll
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appears on Meet the Press" in Washington, D.C., Sunday, March 15, 2020.
William B. Plowman/NBC via Getty Images

On Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the White House Coronavirus Task Force appeared on NBC’s “Today” with co-anchor Savannah Guthrie to discuss the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

During the approximately ten-minute segment, Guthrie asked Fauci about theories that have been circulating in the media and online that the death counts for COVID-19 are being inflated.

“You weighed in on a theory that’s been floating around that perhaps the number of fatalities related to COVID-19 is being inflated because people are actually dying of other things,” Guthrie said. “What’s your read on that theory?”

Fauci replied:

You know, Savannah, there is absolutely no evidence that that’s the case at all. You know, I think it falls under the category of something that’s very unfortunate, these conspiracy theories that we hear about. Every time we have a crisis of any sort, there’s always this popping up of conspiracy. I think the deaths that we’re seeing are coronavirus deaths, and the other deaths are not being counted as coronavirus.

Guthrie continued, asking Fauci if there’s a possibility that COVID-19 deaths are actually being undercounted.

“On the flipside of that, do you think there’s a potential that we’re undercounting coronavirus deaths because, unfortunately, we’ve seen in New York, some people are dying at home, and there has been a persistent lack of testing?” asked Guthrie.

Fauci responded, noting that he does believe it’s possible that there could be an undercounting of COVID-19 deaths, but that such an undercounting wouldn’t necessarily be “significant.”

That’s a good point. I think there’s more of a chance of missing some that are really coronavirus deaths that are not being counted, but I don’t think that number is significant enough to really substantially modify the trends that we’re seeing at all.

Earlier in the interview, Fauci noted that there are “some glimmers of hope” in this crisis as the numbers of hospitalizations and intensive care admissions have been going down in New York, the American epicenter of the virus, over the last couple days.

“I think that’s what’s going on. I’m always very cautious about jumping the gun, and saying, ‘well, we have turned the corner,’” Fauci stated. “But I think we are really looking at the beginning of that, which would really be very encouraging. We need that right now.”

Fauci added, however, that simply because mitigation efforts appear to be working and that the curve appears to be flattening, this is not the time to decelerate and become complacent.

During Wednesday’s COVID-19 press briefing at the White House, both Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Fauci rebutted the arguments being postulated by some in the media and online that the death counts are being inflated.

A reporter asked: “As you are both probably aware, there is a lot of misinformation and conspiracy theories out there about the coronavirus. There are some commentators who are suggesting that the number of dead are being inflated because they’re saying that people who are dying with other issues are being listed as COVID-19 deaths … What do you say to those folks who are making the claim without really any evidence that these deaths are being padded … for example, somebody who might die from a number of factors, but had coronavirus, are being listed as coronavirus deaths, and because of that, the number is being inflated.”

Birx replied:

We’ve made it very clear, I think, every time I’ve been up here about the comorbidities, and so, most of the people – and we talked about the Italy data. The majority of Italians who succumbed to this had three or more comorbidities.

This has been known from the beginning. So, those individuals will have an underlying condition, but that underlying condition did not cause their acute death when it’s related to a COVID infection. In fact, it’s the opposite. Having an underlying condition and getting this virus, we know, is particularly damaging to those individuals…

If you have asthma, if you have renal disease, if you have diabetes, if you have hypertension, these are preexisting conditions that put you at a greater risk to having a worse outcome.

Fauci added to Birx’s remarks, saying:

Having been through other serious issues, particularly the very painful early years of HIV/AIDs – when people talk about conspiracy theories, you will always have conspiracy theories when you have a very challenging public-health crisis. They are nothing but distractions. I can assure you we have so much to do to protect the health and the welfare of the American people that I would just hope we just put those conspiracy stuff – and let somebody write a book about it later on, but not now.

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