More research needs to be done regarding COVID-19 deaths. Questions I have are:
How many people tested positive for COVID-19 but then died of something else? In other words, was it death from COVID-19 or death with COVID-19.
How many people were tested for the virus, died before the results came back, but then had COVID-19 written on their death certificates?
How many people died of the flu or pneumonia, while doctors assumed they died of COVID-19 due to the similar symptoms?
How many people died of COVID-19 only without any pre-existing conditions? While we've been told that those with pre-existing conditions are more vulnerable, this statistic is still regularly not included in the death counts.
With this pandemic, doctors can easily believe an educated guess is just as good as a positive test, since their conscience tells them we ought to err on the side of caution and take this virus seriously. What better way to do that than by inflating the death toll? The four questions above have not been answered thoroughly. When giving death tolls for COVID-19, the media and government officials give sound-bytes. They don't break down the numbers. This clearly needs more investigation in order to get to the bottom of it.
This page from the CDC has an interesting chart that gives some perspective. The article preceding the chart is also honest in saying it takes weeks for the data to be properly assessed, so no up-to-date death toll can be accurate. This may lead some to believe that there are actually more deaths from COVID-19 since time could only reveal extra cases and deaths. However, time not only helps us gather data. It also helps us sift through it to determine whether the raw data are accurate. The extra weeks the CDC uses to gather and assess data, it's fair to say, might also be used to help determine whether a death--originally characterized as a COVID-19 death--was in fact a COVID-19 death.
The media and government officials often use the daily updated Johns Hopkins University numbers to find the death toll, but it's nearly impossible to give daily updates due to all the investigation into death involved. So to stay on the safe side, hospitals are being told to classify deaths as COVID-19 even if that hasn't been confirmed.
States the CDC, "In cases where a definite diagnosis of COVID–19 cannot be made, but it is suspected or likely (e.g., the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty), it is acceptable to report COVID–19 on a death certificate as 'probable' or 'presumed'" (source).
It's not too far-fetched to presume some doctors are taking extended liberties, justifying their reasoning with that official statement of the CDC. Furthermore, more and more sources are confirming that doctors are being given monetary incentives to write COVID-19 on death certificates.
Dr. Annie Bukacek, an independent outpatient doctor in Montana, said, "if they also are tested for COVID 19 and they happen to show up positive for COVID 19, that’s going to go on the death certificate, even though that’s not really what the immediate cause of death was. "
Steven Schwartz, Ph. D, National Director of the Division of Vital Statistics, said, “COVID 19 should be reported on the death certificate for all decedents where the disease caused or is assumed to have caused or contributed to death. Certifiers should include as much detail as possible based on their knowledge of the case, medical records, laboratory, etc.”
In other words, doctors can use their own judgment rather than a positive COVID-19 test to determine that the cause of death was COVID-19, and this would be acceptable to the CDC.
I will leave you with some links that helped clarify many things for me.