By Raymond Wolfe
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Two Minnesota lawmakers have called for an investigation of the state’s COVID-19 mortality data after finding that hundreds of recent deaths may have been misattributed to the virus.

State senator Scott Jensen and state representative Mary Franson, both Republicans, released a video last week pressing officials to “audit the death certificates” in light of discrepancies uncovered by Franson.

After being “given the raw files from [Minnesota Department of Health] on the death certificates,” Franson said, “my team and I” “listed several examples of records where COVID is the underlying condition and where COVID is only mentioned.”

“We looked at 2,800 death certificate data points, but of those, what we found was that 2,000 of them had COVID-19 as the underlying cause of death but 800 did not,” she noted.

“That would mean that we’ve had the number inflated by 40 percent,” Franson said.

She noted examples of an auto accident death counted as a virus fatality because the decedent still had “COVID in the system.”

“I have other examples where COVID isn’t the underlying cause of death,” she added. “We have a fall. Another example, we have a freshwater drowning. We have dementia. We have a stroke and multi-organ failure,” Franson related.

“The CDC wants accuracy on the death certificates, and what Representative Franson has uncovered is not quibbling. We are not trying to be political, we are just trying to follow facts,” Senator Jensen said. He emphasized that the death certificates “didn’t from some secret treasure trove.” “That information is public data. Anybody can request that data,” he said.

Substantial issues with COVID-19 data have raised concerns in several states, including in Minnesota, and prompted a joint audit effort by almost a dozen state auditors in September.

Florida’s death numbers were challenged earlier this year, for example, after it was found that medical commissioners counted non-residents among the state’s COVID-19 fatalities, while the health department did not.

At least 3,700 ostensible COVID-19 deaths were flagged by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in July for being the result of “intentional and unintentional injury, poisoning and other adverse events.”

“Right now we’re at scary numbers that are being reported, but we’re not told the full information,” Franson said. “Our state is shut down yet again, we have people that are unemployed, we have businesses that are being threatened, business owners that are being threatened to go to jail because we don’t have the truth.”

“I want people to have the truth so that they can make their own informed decisions on how they want to live with their life, instead of government saying this is how we feel you need to live your life and if you don’t live your life the way government says, well, ‘We’ve got a jail cell for you,’” Sen. Jensen said.

“That’s not living,” he added.

Jensen, a practicing physician, also noted that “doctors and hospitals have an incentive to, if you will, massage the numbers.”

“We saw some 22 billion dollars distributed from the feds to hospitals based on what was the impact of COVID-19,” he explained, referring to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed by President Trump in March. The CARES Act authorized “[a] Medicare add-on payment of 20%” for all coronavirus patients.

“[The Department of Health and Human Services] is allocating funding to hospitals that have a high number of confirmed COVID-19-positive inpatient admissions,” Jensen noted.

For months, Sen. Jensen has condemned “perverse incentives” enabled by federal COVID-19 relief funding, which have been attested to by CDC chief Robert Redfield, among others.

“Hospital administrators might well want to see COVID-19 attached to a discharge summary or a death certificate,” Jensen said on Facebook in April. “Why? Because if it’s a straightforward, garden-variety pneumonia that a person is admitted to the hospital for — if they’re Medicare — typically, the diagnosis-related group lump sum payment would be $5,000,” he continued.

“But if it’s COVID-19 pneumonia, then it’s $13,000, and if that COVID-19 pneumonia patient ends up on a ventilator, it goes up to $39,000,” he said.

“You can diagnose COVID-19 without a positive test; you can diagnose it simply on the symptoms and if there’s transmission in the community,” Jensen stated in his video with Rep. Fransen from last week. “I’ve talked to hospital administrators and they’ve assured me that that is happening,” Jensen reported.

“You’re not going to see hospital administrators jump up and volunteer that information … but you can certainly see that if you can get 77,000 per admission or 50,000 per admission, that is an incentive.”

Liberal media outlets like The New York Times have attacked Jensen repeatedly for his statements, although left-wing “fact-checks” have vindicated his claims. The senator has been the target of anonymous accusations submitted to Minnesota’s medical board as well, which have charged him with spreading “misinformation.” The board cleared Jensen of any wrongdoing in July.

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