Republicans in Congress are downplaying COVID deaths however they can

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Republican lawmakers insist that children are dying 'with COVID, not of COVID.'

More than 900,000 people in the United States have died due to COVID-19 since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Congressional Republicans are continuing to argue that COVID-19 is not the main cause of their deaths, minimizing the role it played in many of them and claiming that underlying health conditions are instead to blame.

On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Rep. Guy Reschenthaler argued that a large percentage of the hundreds of American children who have died should not be counted as COVID-19 deaths at all because they already had other medical issues.

"Many of these children had preexisting — I'm sorry, had underlying medical conditions, making them more vulnerable to severe COVID-19 than the average child," he said. "Meaning that many of these children died with COVID, not of COVID. But again, that's real science, not political science."

In response, activist Jo Kaur tweeted, "They would not be dead if it wasn't for COVID. This type of messaging makes me sick to my stomach. How dare these people try to throw away vulnerable children."

Last month, Georgia Rep. Andy Clyde made a similar argument during a House debate, falsely claiming, "CDC Director [Rochelle] Walensky recently admitted that 75%, yes 75%, of COVID deaths occurred in people with at least four co-morbidities." Though many on the right have circulated that claim, Walensky's actual comments referred to people who had died after being vaccinated, part of her argument as to why getting vaccinated and boosted is important.

On Wednesday, Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie used similar language in a tweet suggesting that government health care, rather than old age or a deadly virus, was the reason so many people had died.

"Over 70% of Americans who died with COVID, died on Medicare," he wrote,"and some people want #MedicareForAll?"

Responding to the tweet, Arizona Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego said, "Because Covid severely impacted the elderly and the elderly are on Medicare. If you paid someone to come up with this tweet fire them. If you came up with this tweet you should hang your head in shame."

Medicare provides health insurance for the vast majority of Americans aged 65 and older. The risk of dying of COVID-19 is higher for older people, as is the risk of dying of other diseases — that has been true throughout the pandemic internationally, not just in the United States — and thus it is to be expected that older people on Medicare would make up the largest share of deaths. There is no evidence that their government-run health insurance program was a factor in their mortality rate.

Indiana Rep. Jim Banks argued on Jan. 31 that an increase of more than 40% in respiratory deaths among teens over a single year was insignificant.

"But we've known from the start that kids aren't at risk from COVID," he falsely claimed. "Respiratory deaths in Americans 13-18 didn't significantly rise during COVID. Drug and alcohol deaths doubled."

The chart Banks linked to showed that the number of deaths in that age group due to respiratory diseases increased from 220 in 2019, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, to 312 in 2020.

Last month, the Poynter Institute for Media Studies published a fact check debunking claims that COVID-19 death figures are highly inflated because many died "with, not from" the disease. It noted that research has shown coronavirus deaths have been undercounted throughout the pandemic and said, "In 92% of death certificates that mention the virus, COVID-19 was the underlying cause of death.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.