For weeks now, Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in California has been one of the most prominent Christian COVID-deniers in the country. He has sued the state for the right to hold massive indoor services without masks or social distancing, and he flat-out celebrated his church’s rejection of protective measures two weeks ago, saying to the crowd, “The good news is you’re here, you’re not distancing, and you’re not wearing masks.”
This morning, he went full-denial, telling his congregation there’s “no pandemic” and that only a tiny fraction of supposed COVID deaths are directly linked to the virus itself.
I don’t want to offer myself as any kind of an expert, but a rather telling report came out this
week, and for the first time, we heard the truth. The CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, which is the national organization — government organization — that is to report to us truth about disease said that, in truth, 6% of the deaths that have occurred can be directly attributable to COVID. 94% cannot.
Of the 160,000 people that have died, 9,210 actually died from COVID. There is no pandemic.
The sermon in question hasn’t been posted online by the church, so that clip comes from Warren Throckmorton, or at least someone who was able to stream it live and record it.
Let’s just go through the basic facts here to discuss why MacArthur is wrong.
The CDC report he’s talking about is presumably this one, out this week, which includes a section on co-morbidities. Basically, when people died of COVID, the CDC also noted any other medical problems they had.
That’s important to know! Maybe you struggle with diabetes or pneumonia. In normal times, those wouldn’t kill you; we know how to help people survive with those conditions. But when patients who had pneumonia also got COVID, many of them died.
In general, if people with breathing problems or heart conditions catch the virus, they’re in serious danger.
To put that another way, if those people with other medical conditions did not catch COVID, they would very likely be alive today. The pandemic is real.
So why track co-morbidities? By keeping track of any other medical condition patients have, we get a better sense of which groups of people are most vulnerable to the virus.
Here’s what the CDC said (and this appears to be what MacArthur was quoting):
For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned. For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death. The number of deaths with each condition or cause is shown for all deaths and by age groups.
To put that more simply, if you’re perfectly healthy and young, the virus is far less likely to kill you even if you catch it. But if you have certain diseases to begin with — and that’s true of many, many Americans — then you’re very much at risk of dying of COVID.
Only 6% of people had no other medical conditions listed. Those are basically “healthy” people dying from COVID as opposed to everyone else, who had other conditions, who also died from COVID.
So when MacArthur says “9,210 actually died from COVID. There is no pandemic” — suggesting all those other people died of something else — he’s lying. He’s ignorant. He’s spreading falsehoods. He has no clue what he’s talking about. And his congregation will never call him out on it because they’re brainwashed.
What he claimed is absolutely not what the CDC was saying.
The irony is that MacArthur says in that clip, “I don’t want to offer myself as any kind of an expert.” And then he proceeds to spread misinformation. (Even he’s not listening to himself, apparently.)
Throckmorton also points out that right-wingers, including QAnon followers and Donald Trump himself, are echoing a similar line of thinking. One viral tweet claims the CDC “quietly updated the Covid number to admit that only 6% of all the 153,504 deaths recorded actually died from Covid.”
Like I said, that’s a complete misinterpretation of the data.
Yet instead of consulting a scientist, or someone who knows how to read, people like MacArthur are taking their cues from online conspiracy theorists. I guess his faith teaches him to celebrate ignorance and put the lives of his congregation in harm’s way.