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Minnesota legislators say COVID-19 death totals have been inflated in their state, call for an audit

ST PAUL, MN - OCTOBER 03: Minnesota Governor Tim Walz helps pack food donations while campaigning at the Sanneh Foundation with Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Joe Biden, on October 3, 2020 in St Paul, Minnesota. Two Minnesota state representatives have alleged that Walz's lockdown measures are based on inflated death totals. Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Two Minnesota state representatives are calling for a national audit of the published coronavirus death totals nationwide, claiming that the figures have been inflated by including individuals who died of obviously non-illness related reasons (like car crashes) after they had a positive test for the novel coronavirus.

Reps. Mary Franson and Scott Jensen, both Republicans, made the comments on "Tucker Carlson Tonight" Tuesday. According to Franson, "I enlisted some people that are really good at understanding data … to go through those death files and what I found was shocking because I was just hoping that it was a myth, but indeed, Minnesota is classifying some deaths as COVID when clearly, they should not be."

Franson went on to state her belief that the mischaracterized deaths are part of the reason that the state remains in lockdown, which is harming the state's economy. She specifically noted that restaurants are only allowed to serve people in Minnesota outside, which is obviously less than ideal in December.

Jensen specifically faulted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the mischaracterized deaths, saying, "When the Department of Health and the CDC [Centers for Disease Control] decided to change the rules that had been in place for 17 years by encouraging the diagnosis of COVID-19 in situations that we never would have otherwise, they were abandoning their long-held commitment to precisely identifying the inciting or the initiating event that would lead to a sequence of events that would lead to a person's demise."

According to official totals, over 344,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus as of the time of the publication of this article. The exact number of these deaths that should be counted as coronavirus deaths has been the subject of controversy, since essentially everyone who dies while under a coronavirus diagnosis — regardless of whether coronavirus was the primary or even significant contributing factor to their death — is being included in the totals. Medical professionals and the CDC have argued that those deaths should be included in totals when the novel coronavirus was one of several contributing illnesses that led to a person's death.

However, a number of stories have emerged since the start of the pandemic of individuals who have died of obviously non-coronavirus related causes (like car wrecks, assaults, etc.) being included in coronavirus death totals because they had been diagnosed with coronavirus. It is as yet unknown how widespread these errors might be.

Minnesota remains under lockdown orders imposed by Minnesota's Democratic governor Tim Walz. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has aggressively targeted Minnesota bars and restaurants who have violated these orders, leading many small business owners in the state to chafe against the lockdown restrictions.

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