The investigative findings come as officials’ COVID fears in the Milwaukee County courthouse have led to backlogged jury trials and dangerous criminals being released on the streets or not tried in a timely manner.
Only 49 of the 1,351 people who died in Milwaukee County with COVID-19 listed as a primary cause of death by the Medical Examiner’s office did not have other serious health problems, Wisconsin Right Now has found in a review of data from the start of the pandemic through October 2021. That’s 3.6%.
The bottom line is that almost no one has really died OF only COVID in Milwaukee County since March 2020; almost everyone died of COVID AND a multitude of other severe health problems. One in three had diabetes.
It comes as officials’ COVID fears in the courthouse have led to backlogged jury trials and dangerous criminals being released on the streets or not tried in a timely manner. The findings come as the cost of economic, social and isolation stressors take a toll through skyrocketing overdoses, suicides, and homicides.
We requested the Excel sheet with every death in which Milwaukee County says COVID was the primary cause. There were 1,351 as of October 2021.
If you’re young, you’re highly unlikely to make the list, especially if you’re otherwise healthy. The average age: 74 (the median age is 75). Those in their 20s or younger? About 1% of all Milwaukee COVID deaths.
People’s co-morbidities encompassed almost everything else you can think of, including alcohol abuse, dementia, various forms of cancer, sleep apnea, quadriplegia, organ transplants, tuberculosis, and more.
Only two people under age 20 died through October 2021; they had extensive co-morbidities. The youngest was Alex Eduardo Hernandez, a 14-year-old Hispanic male who died April 1, 2021, the only juvenile in the list. However, he also had acute lymphocytic leukemia and had a bone marrow transplant in 2019. A 19-year-old multi-racial woman, Cessalyn Turman, died but she had obesity and hypertensive cardiovascular disease.
The numbers differ from the state’s numbers because the state records COVID deaths based on a person’s county of residence, even if they died elsewhere in Wisconsin, whereas the county lists people who died in Milwaukee County.
There is another Medical Examiner Excel sheet with 290 “other” Milwaukee COVID deaths. These are people who had COVID but the Medical Examiner did not determine that COVID was their primary cause of death. That means that, in 82% of the Milwaukee County deaths in which the person had COVID, the ME is finding that COVID was the primary cause, even though almost all of those people had extensive other health problems.
Many of the Milwaukee COVID deaths in the “other” sheet list extremely similar co-morbidities to the deaths where COVID was listed as the primary cause. Compare (first, the top of the primary cause sheet and then the top of the “other” sheet).
We found 25 people whom the medical examiner says died of COVID despite receiving the vaccine, since August 2021. The ME’s office did not believe any of them had died FROM the vaccine, though.
Milwaukee COVID deaths are not affecting many people in the age range that attend or work in a school or courthouse.
“These are cases where COVID is listed as the primary cause,” Karen Domagalski, operations manager for the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office told us of the Milwaukee COVID deaths Excel sheet.
But who is really dying of COVID-19 in Milwaukee County, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office?
Milwaukee COVID Deaths: Key Findings
-Only 3.6% of the COVID deaths listed ONLY COVID as a cause. The rest of the people who died had co-morbidities – many of them in many cases. COVID is listed as “cause A” for all of these deaths in the sheet. The co-morbidities – when they existed, which was in almost all cases – were listed as “Cause Other.”
-Diabetes was a very common co-morbidity listed. It came up in 457 cases or 34% of cases.
-Obesity was listed as a cause of death along with COVID in 151 cases or 11%. In almost all cases, there were other co-morbidities as well.
Milwaukee COVID Deaths Defined
Certainly, the manner in which the Medical Examiner determines whether a death is a COVID death is controversial.
For example, if someone has a common host of problems – say, “diabetes mellitus, chronic congestive heart failure, end-stage renal failure on dialysis” (as one “COVID death” is listed) – why is COVID listed as the “primary cause”? Are all COVID deaths listed as primary cause despite the other health problems or is there another list where COVID is listed as a secondary cause? It turned out that there was another list, but it was the far shorter one.
We asked Brian Peterson, the chief medical examiner, how he determines whether a death has COVID as a primary cause when almost all of the people listed had serious other ailments – often a cluster of them – and even things as serious as organ transplants and cancer.
He said: “The short answer is that I have signed out probably 99% of the COVID-related deaths in MKE county, so at least there is consistency to the approach. I look carefully at the investigation and medical history – of someone has a good diagnosis of symptoms, x-ray studies, and treatment all consistent with COVID pneumonia, then I will consider that a ‘Complications of infection with novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)’ death, and then list the comorbidities in the “other significant conditions” section.”
Peterson continued, “In cases in which there is substantial symptom overlap – for example, both pneumonia and a congestive heart failure flare-up can cause shortness of breath – I will use the primary medical diagnosis as the cause of death, listing COVID in the ‘other significant condition’ section. Finally, if someone has other diagnoses and happens to test COVID positive, I do not list COVID in either section of the DC. Oh, and lately, if we have vaccination information, I list as much as possible in the ‘other significant condition’ section – the vaccine type and dates if available, or at least, ‘vaccinated’ if there is no other information. Just trying to create an accurate record for future use…”
We followed up and asked, “Is it possible that in any cases where Covid was listed as primary cause that they actually died of the comorbidities not Covid? You say you look to see if they had Covid pneumonia but is it possible some did have pneumonia but didn’t die from that? Is it hard to tell COD if a person has a complex set of comorbidities along with Covid as many in the sheet did?” We didn’t hear back.
After reviewing medical records, this death had been ruled “complications of infection with novel Coronavirus (Covid-19).” Other significant conditions: acute lymphocytic leukemia, status post bone marrow transplant 2019. Subject tested COVID positive in November 2020. https://t.co/UQEz2XRue1
— Medical Examiner (@mkemedexamine) April 2, 2021
In Milwaukee County, 13 people in their 20s made the list of 1,351 deaths, but each of them suffered from serious co-morbidities:
Almost all people who died of COVID in Milwaukee County had multiple other serious health problems, with one of three suffering from diabetes (a trend found across the country), and more than 1 in 10 listed as obese. “People with diabetes are more likely to have serious complications from COVID-19,” the American Diabetes Association says, noting that diabetes plus a heart condition is even deadlier. Another common co-morbidity: Hypertension.
A 23-year-old died but also had diabetes, asthma, and morbid obesity. A second 23-year-old died but also had spina bifida and end-stage renal failure. Similarly, a 28-year-old is on the list. But he also had multiple severe health problems in addition to COVID: morbid obesity, diabetes, hypertension, asthma and obstructive sleep apnea.
The oldest death listed was a man, age 104. He also had dementia, chronic renal failure, atrial fibrillation, colon and kidney cancer.
What is clear: If you aren’t afflicted with other serious health problems, it’s extremely unlikely you would die of COVID-19 in Milwaukee.
In 2021, through October, there were 368 drug deaths and 94 suicides. In 2020, there were another 546 drug deaths and 126 suicides.
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