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Is Wisconsin Governor Using Inflated COVID Numbers to Restrict Liberty?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

MADISON — As Gov. Tony Evers and his COVID doom squad push their agenda of panic, the Department of Health Services’ death count is coming under fire.

Milwaukee County’s chief medical examiner told WISN 12 News the state’s pandemic death total includes more than 100 people who had COVID-19 but died primarily of other causes.

Dr. Brian Peterson said his office strictly counts COVID-19 deaths, but the state includes in its total COVID fatality figures “other significant conditions” on the death certificate.

“They’re simply lumping everything into one basket, so if they have COVID anywhere on a death certificate, they’re calling that a COVID related death. I don’t believe that’s true,” Peterson told the Milwaukee ABC News affiliate.

Those inflated numbers are being used by DHS and local health officers — and enterprising politicians — to push their power to restrict individual liberty and scare the hell out of the public. No wonder so many Wisconsinites are skeptical of the people in power who are supposed to be acting in the public’s interest.

“It is imperative that state government ensures that all levels of government responsible for collecting this very important data are all singing from the same choir book on what a COVID death is,” said state Sen. Dave Craig (R-Town of Vernon). Failing to do so, the lawmaker said, could do “major further harm in how state government reacts to virus information.”

As of Thursday, DHS reported there have been 1,348 COVID-related deaths since the outbreak in March. It was an increase of 21 deaths from the day before.

But Milwaukee County’s medical examiner will tell you that at least 100 of those deaths resulted from other causes lumped into the same basket.

DHS reported 538 total COVID-19 deaths in Milwaukee County as of Thursday.

The inflation problem goes back to the beginning of the pandemic.

It’s the comorbidity effect — the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases. When serious health conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease meet COVID-19, well, it can be like throwing gasoline on a fire.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean COVID is the primary cause of death.

As Wisconsin Spotlight reported in May, Milwaukee County Medical Examiners office data obtained by CRG Network (Citizens for Responsible Government) found that residents 65 and over made up 75 percent of 193 COVID-19-related deaths in Milwaukee County. All but four of the victims had at least one underlying health condition.

Underlying conditions included cancer, COPD, heart attacks, stroke, congestive heart failure. Many of the victims were obese, many morbidly obese. The No. 1 comorbidity among the deceased was high blood pressure; No. 2 was diabetes.

“Moreover, 78% of intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and 94% of deaths (where complete information on underlying conditions or risk factors was available) occurred in those with at least one underlying health condition,” the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology reported in May.

DHS acknowledges that they’re dumping comorbidity deaths into the COVID-19 pot.

“If COVID-19 is listed as a contributing factor by the medical examiner, we will include that,” said Traci DeSalvo, of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, told WISN.

In a mealy-mouthed reply, DeSalvo said policymakers should look at the mix of morbidity in issuing their public health decisions. But neither the Evers administration or much of the press does when reporting the data. They simply report that someone died of COVID-19, when that may not be the case.

But the reporting problem could be worse.

In June, when Walworth County citizens were pushing back on a proposed oppressive health ordinance, Dave Overbeek, a long-time member of the Richmond Town Board, told county supervisors that a friend of his who lived in Walworth County but died of COVID-19-related causes in Milwaukee County was counted as a death in both counties.

As the numbers appear to rise, Evers and unelected bureaucrats issue more restrictions based on inflated pandemic numbers.

Craig said that practice has got to stop.

“It needs to be succinct, uniform and accurate,” the lawmaker said of the data. 

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