Dr. Leana Wen Has Been Criticized for Her Admission That Covid Deaths Had Been “Overcounted”

Dr. Leana Wen, a CNN medical analyst and columnist for the Washington Post, said in a column on Friday that doctors “overcount” the number of “COVID deaths and hospitalizations.”

Wen, who sometimes writes a column for the Washington Post about the pandemic, masking, and other topics related to COVID, cited sources that said most “patients diagnosed with COVID are actually in the hospital for some other illness.”

The article is titled, “We are overcounting COVID deaths and hospitalizations. That’s a problem.” People on Twitter were upset by what Wen said, saying that it was “two and a half years late.”

Wen began her column with some apparent scepticism about the CDC’s latest COVID-19 death stats: “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States is experiencing around 400 COVID deaths every day. At that rate, there would be nearly 150,000 deaths a year. But are these Americans dying from COVID or with COVID?”

The doctor claimed that “Understanding this distinction is crucial to putting the continuing toll of the coronavirus into perspective. Determining how likely it is an infection will result in hospitalization or death helps people weigh their own risk.”

She spoke to two Infectious-disease experts, who told her they believed “the number of deaths attributed to COVID is far greater than the actual number of people dying from COVID.”

Mentioning the first, she wrote, “Robin Dretler, an attending physician at Emory Decatur Hospital and the former president of Georgia’s chapter of Infectious Diseases Society of America, estimates that at his hospital, 90 percent of patients diagnosed with COVID are actually in the hospital for some other illness.”

Dretler told the analyst, “Since every hospitalized patient gets tested for COVID many are incidentally positive.” Wen pointed out that people with gunshot wounds or other serious illnesses often test positive for the virus. He then wrote, “If these people die, COVID might be listed along with the other diagnoses on their death certificate. But the coronavirus was not the primary contributor to their death and often played no role at all.”

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Dretler said this led to “inaccurate reporting” on COVID deaths and hospitalizations, but he said it wasn’t done with “bad intent.” He denied that there was any “conspiracy” behind it to “exaggerate coronavirus numbers for some nefarious purpose.”

Wen also cited infectious disease doctor Shira Doron, who found that “in recent months, only about 30 percent of total hospitalizations with COVID were primarily attributed to the virus.” For example, in Massachusetts hospitals, COVID was the main cause of only 30 percent of hospitalizations.

Wen recounted Doron’s experience at Tufts Medical Center, writing, “During some days, she said, the proportion of those hospitalized because of COVID were as low as 10 percent of the total number reported” who had COVID.

Wen added, “Doron acknowledges that there is a grey zone in the data in which COVID might not be the primary cause of death but could have contributed to it.”

Towards the end of her piece, Wen declared, “To be clear, if the COVID death count turns out to be 30 percent of what’s currently reported, that’s still unacceptably high.”

Many people who read the article on Twitter seemed angry about it, saying that they thought doctors had been counting for years and that Wen’s information was too late.

Epidemiologist Dr. Tracy Høeg responded to Wen’s piece, stating, “Spring 2021 [USA] had good evidence >40% of child COVID admissions were incidental. 2021 Denmark announced they’d distinguish with vs from COVID hosp. COVID+ deaths in [Denmark] in 2022 [were] 60-70% incidental.”

The doctor added, “Amazing how long it has taken the U.S. to accept this is a problem.” Senior analyst at the Center for Security Policy J. Michael Waller criticized the Washington Post for the column, saying, “Not long ago, the Washington Post called us conspiracy theorists for saying things like this.”

Author A.J. Kay tweeted, “Well, yeah … You’d think seeing this in legacy media would offer a feeling of vindication or resolution for those of us who have been screaming about it since 2020, but really it’s just exasperation, anger, & grief. The lies caused so much harm.”

Adam Creighton, a reporter for “The Australian,” tweeted, “People who said this a year ago were kicked off social media.” Brownstone Institute president Jeffrey Tucker tweeted, “This is not just recently true. It’s been true for three years! We truly do not know how many actually died from COVID, which means that not even the CFR is accurate.”

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