Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst (R) told voters at a campaign event on Monday that she was “skeptical” about the official death toll reported for COVID-19 in the United States — perpetuating a widely discredited QAnon conspiracy theory that coronavirus-related deaths are actually far lower than reported.
The Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier was the first to report that Ernst pushed the theory, saying she was “so skeptical” over the official reporting about COVID-19 deaths when a voter raised suspicions about over-reporting.
“They’re thinking there may be 10,000 or less deaths that were actually singularly COVID-19,” Ernst said, citing a figure falls within range of the conspiracy theory that only around 6% of COVID-19 deaths could be attributed to the virus.
“I’m just really curious,” Ernst said, fanning the flame of the debunked claim. “It would be interesting to know that.”
According to the Iowa Starting Line, Ernst also accused doctors without evidence of falsely recording that some patients were infected with coronavirus as a part of a plot to receive more money in patient care.
“These health care providers and others are reimbursed at a higher rate if COVID is tied to it, so what do you think they’re doing?” Ernst said.
The brazen accusations follow similar suggestions by President Donald Trump who over the weekend retweeted a conspiracy theory shared by a QAnon supporter that falsely claimed that about 9,000 people had “actually” died from coronavirus, instead of the much larger figures of 180,000 coming from reputable sources. The post from “Mel Q” was later removed by Twitter for violating the social media company’s policies about spreading misinformation.
The theory appeared to stem from from the CDC releasing statistics on “comorbidities” of those who passed away due to the virus, or essentially other health conditions that they had at the time of their death.
But Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, told Good Morning America on Tuesday that a COVID-19 death — is still a COVID-19 death, urging that there “not be any confusion about that.”
“That does not mean that someone who has hypertension or diabetes who dies of COVID didn’t die of COVID-19. They did,” Fauci said. “So the numbers you’ve been hearing — there are 180,000-plus deaths — are real deaths from COVID-19.”