A CPAP machine in a hospital

New York Times/YouTube

Coronavirus truthers suggest only 14 people died in NYC

Those with underlying issues shouldn't be counted, conspiracists argue.


Mikael Thalen


Posted on Apr 1, 2020   Updated on Apr 2, 2020, 10:33 am CDT

Conspiracy theorists online are arguing that the coronavirus is not as deadly as health officials warn based on new statistics out of New York City.


One of the hardest-hit locations thus far, the Big Apple has been labeled the epicenter of the deadly disease in the U.S.

A summary of the city’s coronavirus-related death toll released on Tuesday was criticized, however, after those skeptical of the outbreak pointed to individuals with pre-existing conditions who had died with COVID-19.

At the time of the report, of the 932 New Yorkers who succumbed to the disease, 748 had underlying health conditions. Among the total, 170 were categorized as “underlying conditions pending,” while 14 had no known underlying conditions whatsoever.

Numerous Twitter users, including far-right author and former pickup artist Roosh, real name Daryush Valizadeh, argued that only those without underlying conditions should be counted as actual coronavirus deaths.

“14 people have died from coronavirus alone in New York City,” Roosh incorrectly said.


Adam Townsend, a self-described “extreme salesman” with more than 55,000 Twitter followers, likewise pointed to the 14 cases. Townsend even stated that the “NYC numbers are cooked.”

The argument appears to be that the 918 others would have died anyway, and therefore their deaths can’t be blamed on the coronavirus, even if that is precisely what caused their death.

“Updated NYC Covid-19 numbers,” Townsend tweeted. “Note the cases with no underlying conditions.”


Underlying conditions, according to the summary, include diabetes, lung disease, cancer, heart disease, hypertension, and asthma, among other ailments.

But the conspiracy makes little sense when you note that a massive portion of the U.S. population has one of the above health issues.

In 2018, 34.2 million U.S. adults, or 10.5% of the population, had diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. CDC statistics from the same year say 24.7 million U.S. adults had asthma. Similar numbers from the American Heart Association show that an estimated 103 million U.S. adults have high blood pressure.

While underlying problems can make you susceptible to having more severe problems, the coronavirus is still the cause of death regardless.

Even followers of Roosh and Townsend took issue with the logical fallacy.

“‘Underlying Health Issues’ is a very broad term. A large amount of Americans have underlying health issues,” @AbysmaIWinner said. “Most working class men develop health problems as early as their 30’s.”


If questioning how the statistics were gathered wasn’t enough, Townsend went on to suggest that doctors were actually being told to manipulate death counts as part of a conspiracy to inflate the disease’s danger.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the nation’s leading infectious disease experts and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, even addressed in a recent interview how doctors should write death certificates amid the pandemic.

As should be obvious, if an individual came into a hospital deceased after having gone through their windshield during a car accident, a doctor would not list their death as being from the coronavirus if a test happened to detect the presence of COVID-19.

But Fauci adds that “if someone obviously comes into it with acute respiratory distress syndrome and died on a ventilator, that’s coronavirus disease.”

The false claim that only 14 people have actually died as a result of COVID-19 comes not long after others began alleging that hospitals in New York City weren’t actually overwhelmed.

Despite footage from actual health professionals showing hospitals under strain, conspiracy theorists have touted videos of scarce hospital parking lots as proof that no one must really be inside.

Of course, the parking lots are easily explained by numerous factors, including the fact that all visitation and elective procedures have been put on hold for the time being.

As of Wednesday, New York City’s virus-related death toll reached 1,374.


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*First Published: Apr 1, 2020, 9:57 pm CDT