The common thread among calls and emails I got last week was a repeat of the widely debunked conspiracy theory that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was “burying” a statistic about COVID-19 deaths.

The theory goes that the CDC doesn’t want citizens to know that only 6% of the 188,000-plus people who have died of COVID-19 died solely because of the virus, having no other contributing health factors.

A few points:


1) The CDC has said for six months that those most at risk are the people with underlying health conditions. That warning was no joke: the vast majority of the dead are people who had some sort of health issue, such as diabetes or hypertension, and then contracted COVID-19 and did not survive.

2) Among Americans age 55 or older, 78% have a chronic health condition. About half have more than one condition. The fact is that almost everyone who dies has more than one medical issue at the time of death.

3) Let’s not lose sight of the fact that more than 10,000 super healthy Americans with no issues at all got COVID-19 and died. And they are just a fraction of the dead.

The story got wheels when supporters of QAnon tweeted that the CDC had suddenly dialed back its figures to just over 9,000 (the 6% number as of last week). Then the president tweeted the false information, though Twitter removed the tweet for violating platform rules.

Then Sen. Joni Ernst repeated the false information during a speech in Iowa. Asked about it by reporters, Ernst said she was repeating what she had heard. Later in the day Ernst issued a statement acknowledging that “over 180,000 Americans have died because of COVID-19.”

It’s not hard to understand how citizens might believe something when they hear their elected officials repeating it. There’s some irony when the people who think some of the COVID-19 statistics are fake are the very people who are spreading false information.

But we all need to focus on the facts when it comes to this pandemic. Iowans happen to be living in one of the hottest zones in the country. This is no time to abandon caution and assume things aren’t really so bad.

Farm Families of the Year

This week we’re honoring four amazing families as the Telegraph Herald Tri-State Farm Families of the Year. Winners will be honored during an event at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, at the Dubuque County Fairgrounds. You can watch the event live at

The winners and the days on which their stories were or will be featured in the TH are:

Livestock farm family: Moore Family Farm Group. Story on Saturday, Sept. 5.

Grain farm family: Mike Rea and family. Story today.

Dairy farm family: Redrock View Farms. Story on Wednesday, Sept. 9.

Organic farm family: Bear Creek Acres Dairy. Story on Thursday, Sept. 10.

Congratulations to all the Farm Families of the Year. Read their stories and toast these hard-working farmers.

Email Gilligan at