Dr. Anthony Fauci this week debunked an online theory that suggested the coronavirus had accounted for only 9,000 U.S. fatalities, noting that such a figure was only a fraction of the actual death toll.
The infectious disease expert stated unequivocally on “Good Morning America” that more than 180,000 Americans have died of COVID-19.
“The point that the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] was trying to make was that a certain percentage of them had nothing else, just COVID,” Fauci said Tuesday. “That does not mean that someone who has hypertension, diabetes who dies of COVID didn’t die of COVID-19, but they did. So the numbers you’ve been hearing, the 180,000 plus, are real deaths from COVID-19.”
“Let there not be any confusion about that,” he added. “It’s not 9,000 deaths from COVID-19. It’s 180,000-plus deaths.”
Fauci’s comments came in response to an Aug. 26 CDC report which found that for 6% of the deaths included in its statistics, “COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned” on the person’s death certificate.
Over the weekend, a supporter of the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory identified as “Mel Q” reinterpreted those statistics in a since-deleted tweet.
In the tweet, Mel Q implied that the CDC had updated its figures to indicate “only 6%” of people listed as coronavirus deaths actually died” of COVID-19, while the remaining “94% had 2-3 other serious illnesses.”
Trump retweeted the claim shortly before Twitter flagged and deleted it for having violated the social media platform’s rules, according to CNN.
In his “Good Morning America” interview Tuesday, however, Fauci said he believed the president trusted his research in spite of the misleading tweets and public remarks.
“I think when you get statements like that, that doesn’t really reflect what actually goes on,” he said. “So I think it’s a distraction to pit me against the president. We’re all on the same team.”
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.