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Dr. Leana Wen Admits COVID Deaths and Hospitalizations Have Been ‘Overcounted’

Photo: Dr. Leana Wen Admits COVID Deaths and Hospitalizations Have Been ‘Overcounted’
Dr. Leana Wen on PBS News Hour

CNN medical analyst and Washington Post columnist Dr. Leana Wen admitted in her column Friday that hospitals have been “overcounting COVID deaths and hospitalizations.”

Wen, the former CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, wrote that it’s “a problem” that COVID deaths and hospitalizations are being overcounted and “crucial” to distinguish between Americans who die “from covid” versus “with covid.”

“Determining how likely it is an infection will result in hospitalization or death helps people weigh their own risk,” she noted, and then added, “It also enables health officials to assess when vaccine effectiveness wanes and future rounds of boosters are needed.”

Wen said she spoke with two “infectious disease experts” who agree with her about COVID deaths and hospitalizations being “overcounted.”

Dr. Robin Dretler, an attending physician at Emory Decatur Hospital, believes 90 percent of patients diagnosed with COVID at his hospital are being hospitalized for another illness.

“Since every hospitalized patient gets tested for covid, many are incidentally positive,” he told Wen. “A gunshot victim or someone who had a heart attack, for example, could test positive for the virus, but the infection has no bearing on why they sought medical care.”

Wen was quick to point out Dretler’s apparent assertion that such radically “imprecise reporting” of COVID deaths and hospitalizations “is not because of bad intent.”

“There is no truth to the conspiracy theory that hospitals are trying to exaggerate coronavirus numbers for some nefarious purpose,” she wrote. “But, he [Dretler] said, “inadvertently overstating risk can make the anxious more anxious and the skeptical more skeptical.”

A report at Fox News in May 2020, however, noted economic assessments showed hospitals throughout the country were receiving more funds from the federal government to treat Medicare patients diagnosed with, or presumed to have become infected with, the Wuhan coronavirus:

That amount can as much as triple if the patient requires a ventilator, making some wonder whether there is a financial impetus to overstate coronavirus numbers, with others calling such potential abuse “unlikely.”

Dr. Summer McGee, dean of the School of Health Sciences at the University of New Haven, also told Fox News the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act “authorized a temporary 20 percent increase in reimbursements from Medicare for COVID-19 patients to account for both anticipated and unanticipated increases in the cost of care for these medically complex patients.”

Additionally, Doug Badger, visiting fellow for domestic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation, observed at the time a hospital that admits a patient with coronavirus received 20 percent more in compensation than for a patient without the virus.

“Imagine two Medicare patients, one with COVID-19 and another one not, with pneumonia in the same ICU,” Badger said. “Medicare will pay, for example, $10,000 for the pneumonia patient who doesn’t have COVID-19 and $12,000 for the patient who does. The rationale is that this provides a sort of rough justice method of making sure that hospitals that get a lot of COVID-19 patients also get extra money from the government.”

Wen’s other infectious disease expert, epidemiologist Dr. Shira Doron, of Tufts Medical Center, said that, on some days, the proportion of individuals hospitalized at her facility because of COVID were as low as 10 percent of the total number actually reported.

“[K]nowing who exactly is dying from covid can help us identify who is truly vulnerable,” Wen concluded. “These are the patients we need to protect through better vaccines and treatments.”

As Fox News reported, Wen was ripped by a number of individuals who observed her announcement that COVID deaths and hospitalizations had been “overcounted” was not exactly “news,” particularly since she still apparently believes the vaccines and boosters are effective and that, throughout the pandemic, she embraced mandatory masks and vaccines – even to the extent of demanding that life should be “hard” for the unvaccinated.

Epidemiologist Dr. Tracy Høeg cited Wen’s recent column about the “overcounting” of COVID deaths and hospitalizations, asserting, “Amazing how long it has taken the US to accept this is a problem.”


In July 2021, Democracy Now interviewed Wen, who said plainly, “Frankly, we know that we can’t trust the unvaccinated.”

“They have been walking around without masks and, in fact, that’s what led to the surge that we’re seeing,” she added, despite the fact that many studies had already been performed that demonstrated masks were ineffective.

Wen also said full approval of the vaccines was needed in order to encourage more vaccine mandates:

[H]undreds of millions of people around the world have received these life-saving vaccines. We know, and it’s been proven how safe and effective they are, so I’m not entirely sure what we’re waiting for. I do know that having full approval will really pave the way for a lot more employers and schools and other institutions to implement vaccine mandates which I strongly believe is what we need at this point.

In February 2022, however, Wen was all for urging Democrat-led states to drop their mask mandates.

“The science has changed,” she said on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360.

Despite the controversy over how the COVID shot was approved for young children, Wen told CNN in an interview in July 2022 she called her pediatrician’s office “as soon as the FDA authorized the vaccine to let them know that I wanted my kids to get vaccinated at the earliest possibility.”

Wen added the COVID vaccine appointment for her two young children, ages 4 and 2 at the time, “was no different from any other vaccine appointment”:

My kids are used to getting childhood immunizations. They went into the office; I checked in and signed some forms, and they got their shots from the nurse. There were no tears. Both kids were very excited by their colorful Band-Aids.

In a discussion about her choice of the Moderna vaccine over Pfizer’s, Wen said, “Both vaccines are safe and effective, and I think a lot of parents will do as I did and choose whatever is most convenient.”

In December, epidemiologist Dr. Paul Alexander called Wen out in his Substack column for another Washington Post column in which she admitted natural immunity to COVID was equal to – or better – than the mRNA shots.

Revolver also expressed “shock” last month at Wen’s words calling upon the Biden administration to end its vaccine mandate for military personnel.


This content is solely for educational and discussion purposes. Any treatment undertaken in terms of COVID (or any illness) should be discussed with a licensed medical professional.

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