Sen. Joni Ernst’s campaign tried on Wednesday to clean up her damaging COVID-19 comments that drew widespread condemnation.
Unfortunately, the candidate had other plans.
“Over 180,000 Americans have died because of COVID-19,” the statement read. “What matters is that we are getting the resources to Iowa that are needed to fight this virus, and that’s what I’m focused on.”
When asked about her previous comments by KCRG, Ernst repeated the same line, but with one very, very important difference.
“We know that there are 180,000, maybe plus today, Americans that have passed away with COVID, so I stand by that,” Ernst told the TV station.
What’s the difference? “With COVID” instead of “because of COVID.”
That may seem like a minor, technical gripe, but it actually goes to the very heart of this discredited conspiracy theory.
What the QAnon supporters are stuck up on is the CDC’s listing of the “comorbidities” of those who died of the virus, or the other health conditions that they had at the time of their death — but not necessarily the cause of their death. Because only 6% of COVID-19 deaths had COVID-19 as the only health issue listed, QAnon believers are spinning that as only those people died specifically of COVID-19. That is false.
All the fact checkers and medical experts have slammed this as blatantly false, but you don’t even need a medical degree to make your own logical conclusion here. If someone dies from COVID-19, but a “comorbidity” is listed as “respiratory failure,” that doesn’t mean the person only died of “respiratory failure” — it means the COVID-19 virus caused that failure. It’s the same when someone is listed as having hypertension.
“From the beginning of the pandemic, experts have warned that people with these conditions may be at higher risk for contracting the virus and may suffer more serious effects from it,” reported Slate. “But consider that many people with diabetes and hypertension are completely fine until they contract COVID-19; it is entirely possible to live a full life with these conditions, especially if they are well-managed. While diabetes and hypertension may have complicated people’s physiological responses to COVID-19, it is still very much the virus that killed them.”
Gov. Kim Reynolds has made this point many times at her press conferences, that people with underlying health issues are more at risk. Maybe Ernst should be watching them.
What’s important here in Ernst’s phrasing is that QAnon isn’t necessarily disputing that 180,000 Americans who have died also had the virus. They’re arguing that those people, many of whom breathed their last breaths on a ventilator, died due to something else listed in the comorbidities, even if the doctors themselves determined the cause of death as COVID-19. And, therefore, the extent of the pandemic is fake.
Ernst’s “with COVID” phrasing fits into the conspiracy theory perfectly, and could even be seen as a wink and a nod to those who believe the nonsense. If she wanted to actually walk back her comments herself or clarify them, that’s not the phrase she should have used.
So, Iowa reporters should continue to press Ernst on whether or not she believes that all the Iowa families who have lost their loved ones from COVID-19 actually did so, or if their loss was part of some grander conspiracy. Because right now, Ernst is not sticking to the walk-back her campaign provided, and is still leaving room for the possibility she supports this debunked, insulting conspiracy theory.
Again, maybe it’s because that’s what she actually believes.
by Pat Rynard
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