DESOTO COUNTY, Miss. (WMC) - A Mid-South coroner is making headlines this week through a now-viral Facebook post in which he questioned the number of deaths reported from COVID-19, saying they’re not only “misleading,” but causing “unnecessary fear.”
DeSoto County coroner Josh Pounders shared his thoughts on Facebook last week.
His post has now been shared more than 3,000 times with some people praising him and others calling him irresponsible.
Pounders says his office completed 144 death reports last month.
He says 24 people who died tested positive for COVID-19. Pounders says most of them were over age 75 and all had other major medical problems that resulted in some of their deaths. He says some of these people had no symptoms of COVID-19.
Yet he says the health department requires those deaths to be reported as COVID-19 deaths. He says these deaths are then reported to the public without mentioning that many of the people who died were terminal prior to a positive COVID-19 test.
“In my opininon [sic] this has lead [sic] to unnecessary fear in the public and caused stress to the citizens in this county and across this country,” Pounders wrote.
Both the MSDH and CDC guidelines say if COVID-19 played a role in a death, even if it wasn't the primary cause, it should be specified on the death certificate to help officials track the virus.
“When COVID–19 is determined to be a cause of death, it is important that it be reported on the death certificate to assess accurately the effects of this pandemic and appropriately direct public health response,” states the CDC guidance. “In many cases, it is likely that it will be the [underlying cause of death], as it can lead to various life-threatening conditions, such as pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome.”
But the guidance from MSDH says if COVID-19 played no role in the death, even if the person tested positive, it should not be listed as a cause of death.
Pounders also claims stress from the pandemic caused a drastic increase in heart attacks and strokes.
“People see the false information politicians report to the world on the internet. They see what the news reporter who has no knowledge of what he is reporting broadcast to the world. They become scared to leave home and go to the hospitals for fear of a virus when they need medical care for a more serious condition and ultimately have a cardiac arrest at home,” Pounders wrote.
Baptist Memorial Hospital infectious disease specialist Dr. Steve Threlkeld says one month of data is not enough to draw that conclusion.
“It’s just not a possibility to be able to make that claim, so I would take serious issue with the ability to say such a thing,” said Threlkeld. “You would need two years of multiple sites to do a study that could prove such a thing.”
Most of the people commenting on Pounders’ post thanked him for “telling the truth” about a virus they believe is being over-hyped by some politicians and the news media.
Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite also shared Pounders' post on his Facebook page.
Others though called Pounders a “disgrace to the medical profession” and said his post will lead people to believe coronavirus isn’t dangerous.
Pounders added that COVID-19 is real and said he sympathizes with people who've lost loved ones to it.
“Covid is real and we should protect the elderly who are frail,” he wrote. “However, life for the average healthy majority must go on so that chaos in our community and across the country does not escalate and ultimately cause more deaths than any virus ever would.”
Pounders did not respond to WMC’s request for an interview. Instead, he referred reporters to his original post.