67% Of Wisconsinites Who Died With COVID-19 Had Another Underlying Condition

68 of the 3,562 (1.9%) COVID-19 deaths were from COVID-19 ONLY

2,376 of the 3,562 (66.70%) deaths involved at least one other comorbidity

1,118 of the 3,562 (31.39%) deaths were listed as “unknown”

December 7, 2020

By Lexi Dittrich

New public records obtained by The MacIver Institute reveal that individuals with comorbidities account for almost 67% of all COVID-19 deaths in Wisconsin, while individuals who have died exclusively from COVID-19 account for 2% of coronavirus deaths. The MacIver Institute has been requesting this data from the Evers Administration for weeks but the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) finally revealed the new information after a formal open records request was filed last week.

The new table from DHS shows that, as of December 3rd, 68 of the 3,562 deaths related to COVID-19 in Wisconsin were deaths only from COVID-19. That’s 2% of all COVID-19 deaths in the state.

Another 2,376 people, or 67%, who died with COVID-19 in Wisconsin had one or more confirmed comorbidities.

A comorbidity refers to a person “having two or more diseases at the same time,” as described by the National Cancer Institute. Comorbidities sometimes do not affect each other, but in some cases, the multiple conditions could make one disease worse. If somebody dies with COVID-19, but is also experiencing another serious health condition like diabetes, their death would be labeled as a comorbid death.

DHS reported 1,118 COVID-19 deaths (31%) where it was unknown if the deceased had a comorbidity. Back in July, DHS reported that it was unknown in 19% of deaths if the deceased had any comorbidities.

COVID-19 deaths, sorted by comorbidity status, as of December 3 (left) and July 17 (right). Tables via Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

DHS did not provide any explanation of why the number of unknowns has been increasing so dramatically in recent months.

On July 29, MacIver first reported that 81% of COVID-19 deaths in Wisconsin involved another underlying condition. At the time, only 12 deaths, or 1%, could be attributed exclusively to COVID-19.

In early August, MacIver also found that 372 of the 383 people who reportedly died with COVID-19 in Milwaukee County (97%) had an underlying condition.

The average victim of COVID-19 in Milwaukee County had 2.5 comorbidities. Some had 5 or 6 other serious conditions.

Hypertension was the most common comorbidity among the deceased in Milwaukee County, followed by diabetes and cardiovascular disease. There were also patients with leukemia, colon cancer, and prostate cancer.

Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office Operations Manager, Karen Domagalski, said at the time, “Almost everyone dying of it has other serious health problems.”

Profile of COVID-19 deaths in Wisconsin, as of December 3, 2020.

Former New York Times columnist, Alex Berenson, tweeted about COVID-19 deaths in Milwaukee County this past weekend. Berenson found that the three most recent COVID-19 deaths in the county were among people over the age of 70 with serious comorbidities. One of the deceased was 102 and also had “congestive heart failure, hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stroke,” and “chronic renal failure.” Another one of the deceased, age 71, had “Hepatic cirrhosis, chronic ethanol abuse,” and “pancreatitis.”

If and when the Evers Administration answers why so many deaths are marked COVID-19 when other comorbidities clearly contribute to death, The MacIver Institute will update our story.