Sen. Tyson’s derision of COVID-19 report an insult to Kansans

The senator's questioning of a recent report saying COVID was the leading cause of death in the last four months of 2020 not only denies the reality of the situation, but insults those who've directly suffered from the virus.



July 2, 2021 - 1:30 PM

Caryn Tyson.

There’s no greater insult to the families who have lost someone to COVID-19 than for others to dismiss the severity of the coronavirus.

But that’s exactly what State Sens. Caryn Tyson of Parker and Mike Thompson of Shawnee are doing in their repudiation of a recent report that says COVID-19 was not only the leading cause of death in Kansas for the last four months of 2020, but that deaths increased by 26% during that time period, a jump of 2,608.

In fact, COVID-19 topped all other causes of death — including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and suicide — for all of 2020, which saw a 14% increase in fatalities.

The report in dispute was commissioned by state legislators and performed by the legislature’s audit division.

Tyson and Thompson accused the report’s numbers of being “inflated” — without any proof — and have requested the audit team check their math.

“I’ve worried from the beginning — and not just in Kansas but nationwide — that those numbers were inflated,” Thompson said in an Associated Press story.

Tyson went so far as to suggest hospitals fabricated the cause of death as COVID-19 so that they could reap a financial benefit.

“There have been many rumors or statements made that the hospitals [could be] certain there was money tied to if it was a COVID death,” Tyson is quoted in a Topeka Capital-Journal article.

Tyson is referring to the fact that hospitals do receive extra funds to help treat the elderly on Medicare — typically those 65 and older — diagnosed with COVID-19. That’s because the elderly fare far worse from COVID-19 than any other demographic and frequently require extreme measures such as ventilators to help them survive.

The funds were designated under the CARES Act, enacted in March 2020.

But there is no indication hospitals have falsely attributed deaths to COVID-19 in order to cash in and to insinuate such fraud is beyond specious.

HEALTH OFFICIALS, meanwhile, estimate the number of deaths caused by the coronavirus are greatly underreported.

Several things explain why the true number of coronavirus deaths is likely higher than that officially reported, including the lack of adequate testing for COVID-19 in many regions; the lack of access to medical care in many regions; the many ways COVID-19 contributes to premature deaths for those with underlying conditions, particularly those with compromised hearts and lungs, and the fact that to be classified as a COVID-19 fatality, it must be confirmed by a molecular laboratory test, a process that not all pursue.

Nationwide, more than 605,000 deaths have been confirmed to be caused by COVID-19, the most of any country in the world.

It gets worse. 

Leading health experts say the real U.S. tally from the coronavirus is closer to 905,000 fatalities, according to the Seattle-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Globally, experts say the virus has caused 6.9 million deaths, more than double what official reports show.