Kernels of Truth

hispanic girl whispering secret on ear of friend Photo by Eren Li on

“A friend of mine was told to write on their mother’s death certificate that she died from Covid-19.”  I heard this from a sweet elderly docent at a museum.

Oh no, here we go again, I thought.  Another conspiracy theorist.  She continued.

“That’s because the hospital gets $12,000 more for each death attributed to Covid-19.”

I quietly tried to change the subject.  But, I remained bothered.  Not by her as much as by myself.  By not saying anything, did I give her story oxygen?  Did she think I agreed?

“I believe that if I can start with a kernel of truth, I might be better prepared to respond to the conspiracy nonsense.”  

Loved-One rolls his eyes.  “You believe everyone loves facts as much as you do.  Not true.”

Still, I’m a curious sort, and I believe dialog is better than dismissal. So, you know what those conspirators say ad infinitum:  Do your own research.  I did.

So here’s what my own microbiology knowledge added to nurses, doctors, researchers, etc. say about some of the arguments out there.

Hospitals get $12,000 for Covid deaths.  

I should have been quicker on my toes with the docent because relatives of the deceased do not determine the cause of death; coroners or medical professionals do. I knew that. Although we may be asked for a signature before getting copies of death certificates, we are not asked to certify the cause of death.

Still, there is a kernel of truth to her $12,000 figure.  Medicare sets the reimbursement of the covered care.  Most of the early cases were in the +65-year-old category.  

An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation looked at average Medicare payments for hospital admissions for the existing diagnosis-related groups and noted that the “average Medicare payment for respiratory infections and inflammations with major comorbidities or complications in 2017 … was $13,297. For more severe hospitalizations, we use the average Medicare payment for a respiratory system diagnosis with ventilator support for greater than 96 hours, which was $40,218.”

It is true, however, that the government will pay more to hospitals for COVID-19 cases in two senses: By paying an additional 20% on top of traditional Medicare rates for COVID-19 patients during the public health emergency, and by reimbursing hospitals for treating the uninsured patients with the disease (at that enhanced Medicare rate).

Both of those provisions stem from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act.

There is no evidence of fraud.  Also, many hospitals have had to furlough elective surgeries, which bring in far more revenue than the 20% extra paid through the CARES Act.

Cloth masks don’t help because the virus is smaller than the weave of the fabric. 

(This is often coupled with: if you can smell a fart through your mask, the virus can get through.) 

It is true that viruses are very small; smaller than the weave of most cotton fabric.  However, if the fabric is even doubled, the holes are criss-crossed, and making the passage of the weave smaller.  The more layers, the better filtration. (This is basic filter technology.) 

Although the virus is very tiny, it cannot go anywhere by itself.  The mask keeps the breath-carrying viruses from going very far from a person.

The odor of a fart is just a molecule, thousands of times tinier than a virus. Odors can get all kinds of places that viruses cannot.

If you want to judge the effectiveness of your mask try to blow out a candle with the mask secured over your nose and mouth.  If you can blow the candle out, you need a better face covering.

When we wear a cloth mask, we protect others from ourselves.  We might unknowingly be a carrier of Covid-19, even when we are vaccinated.

Ivermectin can prevent Covid-19 from getting serious. 

Ivermectin is approved for humans in the treatment of scabies and head lice and other human diseases. One of the reasons Ivermectin use is all over the news is because it’s also used to deworm horses.  People are getting the drug from veternarians and taking it in massive doses.

Ivermectin is among a half dozen or so drugs that are being studied to prevent serious consequences of Covid-19. has a very good article about these drugs.  The purpose of the study is to identify drugs that already have approval that might be cost-effective in developing countries that don’t have access to the medical care we do. There is a drug that’s showing promise.

Ivermectin showed some promising results in the lab, but in order to be effective, it would need to be given in doses toxic to human doses.  Randomized trials in humans showed no better effect than placebo. The same is true of the once touted Hydroxychloroquine. 

Vaccination is still the most effective way to prevent serious infection.

There is a drug in these studies that shows some promise. I’m choosing not to mention the name here because the studies are complete, peer-reviewed, or approved for use for this purpose.

There are different formulations for the Pfizer vaccine given to people.  

Vaccines may be labeled with EUA or with the brand name Comirnaty.  (This one I know about from real-life pharmaceutical industry experience.). 

The same vaccine may have different labels depending on what’s in distribution, who’s getting it, and where it’s distributed.

Pfizer could not put a brand name on the vaccine before approval.  Some of the vaccine, labeled for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) is already in pharmacies waiting to be used as new batches get labeled with the brand name. 

Comiraty is approved for people over 16 years old.  It still has EUA for those between 12 and 16 years old, and it’s in clinical trials for children under 12.

Add to that, different countries have different approval processes and different labeling requirements. 

That same vaccine coming from exactly the same production process could have different labels depending on where it’s going and who it’s meant for.

People are dying from the vaccine:

It is true that people have died after receiving the vaccine.  However, that is not the same as people dying from the vaccine. 

More than 380 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from December 14, 2020, through September 13, 2021. During this time, VAERS received 7,653 reports of death (0.0020%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine. FDA requires healthcare providers to report any death after COVID-19 vaccination to VAERS, even if it’s unclear whether the vaccine was the cause. Reports of adverse events to VAERS following vaccination, including deaths, do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem.

It takes time to tease out whether the cause of death was the vaccine, especially if people have confounding health problems. 

So there you have it: Some kernals of truth behind some conspiracies.

I hope this helps when you talk to people.

On the other hand, please don’t ask me to tease out kernals of truth behind the beliefs of the Flat Earthers, the InCels, or the Truthers. My soul just isn’t in it.