About that Quiet CDC Report of Deaths from COVID

Yesterday before his sermon, John MacArthur gained loud applause from his congregation when he announced the following news:

In truth, 6% of the deaths that have occurred can be directly attributable to COVID, 94% cannot. Of the 160,000 people that have died, 9,210 actually died from COVID.

There is no pandemic.

MacArthur may have gotten this news from his attorney Jenna Ellis, who in turn may have gotten it from Gateway Pundit.

I normally would not link to Gateway Pundit since he appears to have gone full QAnon but I will in this case because I want to demonstrate how misinformation works.  Joe Hoft cites a QAnon source who claims that the CDC “quietly updated the COVID number to admit that only 6% of all the 153,504 deaths recorded actually died from COVID. That’s 9,210 deaths.”

Hoft calls his post a “Shock Report” and says the CDC “silently updated their numbers this week” implying there was something to hide or that there was something new about this week’s report. Before MacArthur told his congregation that only 6% of deaths were due to COVID, he said: “A rather telling report came out this week and for the first time, we heard the truth.”

The First Time?

In fact, there was nothing new about the findings in this report.

Via the Wayback Machine, I went back to May and found that 7% of deaths had COVID alone listed as a cause of death.

Here is the CDC comorbidity report summary for June 20 showing COVID as the only cause mentioned for 7% of the deaths.

How about July?

By July 18, the percent had dipped down to 6%. That took place the week ending July 4.  That is the percent today and has been since July.

There was No Quiet CDC Admission but There is a Pandemic

Looking back over the CDC reports, these breathless QAnon reports look silly. There was no new revelation, change, or admission. Throughout the pandemic, people with underlying health vulnerabilities have died because they became infected with COVID-19.  Without COVID, those people would be alive or at least would have lived longer then they did.

So much of the conspiratorial thinking is focused on the U.S. What about the rest of the world? Have all other countries been taken in by our “deep state?” Is Dr. Fauci so powerful that he can manipulate every nation on Earth to shutdown?

There is a pandemic. It is irresponsible to say otherwise. When you read the next “shock report,” remember this one, check the sources and get a second and third opinion from people who have some knowledge in research.

Watch MacArthur’s announcement:

As of September 1, Youtube removed this video. I have a copy of it hosted here.

For a great summary of the death data, read this from Bob Anderson at the CDC.

I was quoted in this Religion News Service article on this topic.

For all of the posts on LA County v. Grace Community Church, click here.

For my ongoing tally of churches who are associated with COVID-19 outbreaks, click here.

John MacArthur: There is No Pandemic

Just now at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, John MacArthur told his congregation,

In truth, 6% of the deaths that have occurred can be directly attributable to COVID, 94% cannot. Of the 160,000 people that have died, 9,210 actually died from COVID.

There is no pandemic.

Watch:

MacArthur cited a recent CDC report on causes of COVID-19 deaths (Here is the CDC report in question). It provides the comorbid conditions for the vast majority of deaths triggered by COVID-19. COVID-19 and something else contributed to most deaths. What MacArthur seems to be unaware of is that most of those people would be alive today if they had not contracted COVID-19.

What is embarrassing for MacArthur is that this has been known for months. The CDC has released reports before showing the underlying health conditions of deaths and hospitalized patients.  Yet, in ominous tones, MacArthur makes it appear he is revealing some previously concealed truth. While his scary announcement may serve his persecution narrative, it also makes his congregation and followers more vulnerable to the virus.

Although he started out saying he isn’t an expert, he quickly made an erroneous judgment about the data and declared no pandemic to exist despite the reality all around. John MacArthur knows when the experts don’t.

UPDATE: I learned after I posted that QAnon supporters have been talking up this CDC report and Donald Trump retweeted one of them this morning. As I mentioned, the controversy over causes of death and underlying conditions is not a new one. The CDC has been reporting on underlying conditions for months and most deaths are due to multiple causes (e.g. in May, the percent of deaths with COVID-19 alone as a listed cause of death was 7%). That MacArthur touted the report as some kind of revelation makes me wonder where he gets his news and information.

The possible source for this misinterpretation of the CDC data is one of MacArthur’s attorneys in his legal battle to continue worship services indoors – Jenna Ellis. She tweeted a misleading post from far right blog Gateway Pundit on the CDC report very early this morning.

MacArthur attributed his false information to Satan:

It’s clear to us the fabrication of numbers because they’re including people who had two or three comorbidities, we know all of that. We know there are reasons for this that have nothing to do with the virus. There’s another virus loose in the world and that’s the virus of deception and the one who’s behind the virus of deception is the arch deceiver, Satan himself. And it’s not a surprise to me that in the midst of all this deception, the great effort that is going on is to shut down churches that preach the Gospel. So this is not a political speech, by the way. But it does not surprise me that they want to shut down those who preach the Gospel because the architects of this level of deception are not a part of the Kingdom of Heaven. They’re a part of the kingdom of darkness.

Here is a great summary of the facts from the CDC’s weekly report of death data.

I wrote more about this here and was quoted on this story at Religion News Service.

For all of the posts on LA County v. Grace Community Church, click here

For my ongoing tally of churches who are associated with COVID-19 outbreaks, click here

“Eric!” Punches and Runs at Republican National Convention

Someone named Eric who dressed and looks like Eric Metaxas punched an anti-Trump bike rider last night after Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention and ran away from the guy he hit before police came.* You could say the speech inspired Metaxas to action. Watch:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

dc night 2 PLEASE SHARE!!! @ericmetaxas i got punched by a member of the RNC and get detained by SECRET SERVICE for absolutely nothing

A post shared by Ant (@antidote503) on

The punch is at the beginning and a woman shouts, “Eric!” Then you see a man who looks like Metaxas running backward out of sight. You hear another shout of Eric while this is happening.

After the protestor was assaulted, he ran after the backpedaling Eric and was intercepted by the Secret Service. The Secret Service detained the bike rider. Here is that video:

I watched some of the protestor’s Instagram videos describing what happened after being detained. He said that the person who took the video of the assault came up to the Secret Service and told them he had video that showed what happened. The Secret Service watched it and on that basis, let the bike rider go. Apparently, they were satisfied that the man in the white pants did the hitting.

Twitter is all about it today. Seems like a good time to replay this assessment of Metaxas by Greg Thornbury.

Metaxas has been one of the biggest puzzles of the Trump era. A biographer of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, he has consistently defended Trump and even said Christians must vote for him. He wrote two children’s books which appear to denigrate immigrants and has called nationalist Katie Hopkins his “hero.

UPDATE:

*Although Metaxas hasn’t spoken about the incident yet (8/29), his friends are defending the actions as if he did it. In a “he had it coming” defense, Rod Dreher rationalizes the move by accepting the account of an anonymous “witness” who said the biker was threatening. We have the video and it just doesn’t look that way. His wife’s “Eric!?” doesn’t sound that way either.

Look I know we can’t get into someone’s head in a situation, but I would like to hear from Metaxas on this. Thus far, he is just blocking everybody on Twitter who is asking him about it. If he felt threatened, what was his plan after he suckerpunched the guy? Was he hoping his punch would knock him out? I hear what his friends are saying and I understand how sometimes people act out of character. However, I also see Metaxas’ defense and adulation of people who make their names on violent rhetoric (Trump, Milo, Katie Hopkins and Ann Coulter come to mind). I also see his cartoonish defense of Trump’s violent and odious policies at the border. His public persona is not inconsistent with what we saw on camera.

Focus on the Family on List of COVID-19 Outbreaks in Colorado

With three lab confirmed cases and one probable case of COVID-19, Focus on the Family headquarters in Colorado Springs, CO has been declared a COVID-19 Outbreak site.

The CO Dept of Public Health defines an outbreak as two or more cases confirmed by a lab test found in a location . Focus on the Family has declared itself to be a church so it will make my list of church outbreaks. The El Paso County site indicates the outbreak is in the bookstore.

CO is one of the states which tracks outbreaks by location and does a great job of making data available to the public on a weekly basis.

John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church has placed focus on church and COVID-19 by refusing to comply with Los Angles County’s Health Order banning indoor church services. The County and church head to court on September 4 in another round to argue the case.

In an Extraordinary Move, Jerry Falwell Takes Back His Resignation and Then Resigns Again(UPDATED)

In this seemingly never ending story, Falwell told the WSJ that he did indeed submit his resignation. He doesn’t sound contrite though referring to self-righteous people who put pressure on the board.

Amazing.

8/25/20 – You just knew this was going get worse.

……………………….

In a day full of surprises, Liberty University just issued this press release:

Jerry Falwell, Jr. agrees to resign as Liberty University’s president then reverses course

August 24, 2020 : By Office of Communications & Public Engagement

Lynchburg, VA—On the first day of classes of Liberty University’s fall term, Jerry Falwell, Jr., agreed to resign as its President and from its Board of Directors, but following media reports about the resignation, withdrew it.

The Executive Committee’s Board of Trustees asked Falwell to go on indefinite leave of absence on August 7, to which he agreed. Since that time, additional matters came to light that made it clear that it would not be in the best interest of the University for him to return from leave and serve as President. The Executive Committee met this morning and a conference call gathering of the full Board was planned for tomorrow.

Falwell responded by agreeing to resign immediately as President of Liberty University today but then instructed his attorneys to not tender the letter for immediate resignation. The Executive Committee will go forward with its meeting in the morning followed by the full Board.

Acting President Jerry Prevo said, “I call upon the University community and supporters to be in prayer for the University and for all its leadership, past, present and future, as we walk with the Lord through this stormy time of transition.”

Over the past several days, Falwell claimed his wife had a brief affair with Giancarlo Granda, also known as “the pool boy.” Then today, Granda told Reuters that Falwell knew of the affair and seemed to encourage it.

There may be other sordid details, but one loose end has implications beyond Liberty University and the Falwell family. Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen was involved in helping Jerry Falwell bury racy photos of Falwell’s wife. We now have an idea who might have been the source of those photos. Is it possible that Cohen and Trump used the kompromat on the Falwells to get an early endorsement from him?

The fall out from Falwell’s endorsement cost him a high profile board member in Mark Demoss. It still seems quite surprising that Falwell went all in for Trump not long after he declined to endorse anyone. Given the bizarre twists and turns of this story, I think it is reasonable to wonder if Cohen and this story are related.

To go back where this story started, read Brandon Ambrosino’s article on the real estate deal involving Giancarlo Granda.

For a summary of the Giancarlo Granda connection, see the Miami New Times explainer.

California Judge Denies LA County Request for Restraining Order Against Grace Community Church But Affirms County’s Right to Forbid Indoor Worship

UPDATE (8/25/20) – Judge Beckloff issued his ruling today and declined to issue a restraining order on statutory grounds but told the county that nothing stopped them from enforcing their own Health Order. According to the judge the Court had no jurisdiction to enforce it. A hearing on the merits will be held September 4.

So far LA County has elected not to levy fines or send the authorities out to shut the church down. The court essentially said today that it is up to the county to enforce it or not. MacArthur and his supporters will see this as a victory, but the order remains in effect and the Court of Appeal has said it presumes that it is constitutional. The county could enforce it but may not have the courage to do so.

Read Judge Beckloff’s 8/25/20 decision.

In response to a request for a comment on Beckloff’s ruling, LA County issued this statement.

During this unprecedented health crisis, the Department of Public Health, along with thousands of businesses and millions of residents, has worked tirelessly to curb the transmission of COVID-19 in order to prevent serious illness and death among our residents.   It is deeply disappointing that the Court decided not to grant the County’s request for a temporary restraining order prohibiting Grace Community Church from holding indoor services, as it has done several times in recent weeks. We look forward to a favorable ruling when a full hearing is heard on the matter on September 4. It is also important to note that the County’s Health Officer Order prohibiting indoor gatherings, such as protests and religious services, remains valid and in effect. The Department of Public Health continues to ask residents to do their part and, when attending religious services please stay outdoors, wear a mask and practice social distancing.  Together we can beat the spread of this deadly virus.

Although not directly stated here, it does not appear that the County plans to enforce the Health Order before the September 4 hearing.

………………………………………………………………………..

Today before the Honorable Mitchell L. Beckloff, LA County applied again for a restraining order which would prevent Grace Community Church from holding indoor services. At the 8:30am hearing, both sides presented their arguments and the Judge Beckloff took the request for a temporary restraining order under submission. 

A decision is expected either later tonight or tomorrow.

Any restraining order would be in effect only until the September 4 hearing when the Superior Court is expected to rule whether or not the county can enforce the Health Order.

When a decision on the restraining order is announced, I will post it here.

Read: All posts on LA County v. Grace Community Church

Grace Community Church and LA County See Today’s Superior Court Action Differently; Updated with Court Orders

Today, Judge Mitchell Beckloff of the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles twicw took up the matter of the County of Los Angeles v. Grace Community Church. According to the minute orders available from the County of LA court website, the judge ruled that the “Defendants (Grace Community Church) request for ‘expedited preliminary injunction discovery’ and a continuance of the hearing is denied.” Both sides came away declaring a positive outcome and another hearing is slated for Monday, August 24.

Read today’s order from Judge Beckloff (8:30am hearing)

Read today’s order from Judge Beckloff (3pm hearing)

In a press release, Grace Community Church said, “The Los Angeles County Superior Court announced on August 20, 2020, that there is no court order prohibiting Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church from holding indoor worship services.” On the other hand, an LA County press release said, “A Superior Court judge has affirmed a state Court of Appeal ruling that upheld the validity of Los Angeles County’s Health Officer Order, including the prohibition on indoor church services, which a Sun Valley church has challenged as unconstitutional.”

Although I could get no further comment from either camp, the fact is that the prohibition on indoor services was never a court order. It is a Health Order from the LA County Health Officer. The Court of Appeal upheld the validity of the Health Officer’s Order and according to the LA County press release, the Superior Court judge today affirmed that ruling. Although the statement is not recorded in his order, it is possible that the judge said today that there is no court order prohibiting indoor worship while at the same time validating the Health Officer’s Order.

On August 24, LA County will ask LA Superior Court to consider issuing a temporary restraining order prohibiting indoor services. If such an order is issued, future services could be the basis for a contempt citation and fines.

See all articles on Grace Community Church v. LA County

 

 

Correction: Mark Driscoll Did Get a Severance and At Least Once Wore a Bulletproof Vest

I bet that title has never been typed before in the history of the world.

In part two of my interview with former Mars Hill Church executive elders Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas, I asked both gentlemen if Mark Driscoll received a payout when he left Mars Hill Church, and I asked if Driscoll ever wore a bulletproof vest in the pulpit as he recently claimed. About the payout, Sutton said he doubted it because he didn’t think there was sufficient funds available to do so, and both fellows said they never saw Driscoll sport a bulletproof garment.

Well, around here, when news breaks, we fix it. We have corrections.

The Vest

Sutton Turner posted a clarification at his blog that I want to point you to. Go read the whole post, but here’s the money quote on the vest:

However, I have spoken with a former staff member who was with Mark when he purchased a bulletproof vest in 2008. This same staff member observed Mark wearing the vest once while preaching that same year.

Turner and Bruskas stand by their recollection that they never saw him wear one.

The Severance

On the severance, Sutton was informed by former Mars Hill staff that indeed Driscoll was paid a handsome sum after fleeing the scene.

However, I have come to learn from previous Mars Hill staff members that Mark received twelve months’ worth of severance following the sale of real estate in Ballard less than the purchase price of the server managing his content in 2015.

At the time, he was earning in the neighborhood of $650k/year. Even though Mars Hill paid for much of the research used in Driscoll’s books, he owned the rights to it. Apparently, whatever a server cost in 2015 was deducted and away he went.

So there you have it. I want to thank Sutton for quickly coming forward with these corrections. I regret it took me so long to get this post up.

The interviews with former Mars Hill Church executive elders Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas are available here: Part One; Part Two

The “15 years of Blogging Series” is available here: 15 Years of Blogging

See also this post from Wenatchee the Hatchet (I love that name) on Sutton’s correction and a whole lot more from Mr. Hatchet.

L.A. County Applies for Contempt Order and Sanctions Against Grace Community Church and John MacArthur

Yesterday, LA County asked the Superior Court of California to hold Grace Community Church and John MacArthur in contempt of court for violating the August 14 modified temporary restraining order of Judge Chalfant and then the Court of Appeals ruling on August 15th by having services on August 16th and by refusing to allow County health officials access to the church.

Read the LA County application to hold Grace Community Church in contempt

LA County’s Health Order prohibits indoor worship services as one means of stopping the spread of COVID-19. John MacArthur and Grace Community Church believes the order infringes on their rights to gather and worship. Consequently, they have met for indoor worship in violation of the Health Order. On August 14, in response to a request from LA County for a restraining order to halt indoor worship, County Judge James Chalfant denied in part and granted in part the order by allowing Grace Community to meet if they wore masks and physically distanced. LA County then went to the Court of Appeal to ask for that court to set aside the lower court order which it did. At that point, Grace Community disobeyed the Health Order and did not wear masks or physical distance in the Sunday service. Now, the County wants the church and MacArthur held in contempt with sanctions applied.

The County requested a citation of contempt which could lead to a $1,000 fine and up to five days in jail and sanctions which, if imposed, could amount to $1,500 per violation. Depending on how many violations are determined by the court, the fines could be substantial.

In response, the church is not backing down. A press release issued this evening stated: “Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church…are the targets of a County of Los Angeles request to be held in contempt of court. Thomas More Society attorneys are representing the internationally followed preacher and his church and defending their religious freedoms against the county’s unconstitutional violation of the right to worship together.”

Thomas More/MacArthur suit against California

Georgia Reports 49 Place of Worship Outbreaks Associated with 517 Cases, 91 Hospitalizations and 15 Deaths

As a part of my ongoing tracking of place of worship related outbreaks of COVID-19, I asked the Georgia Department of Public Health if the department logged the number of church related outbreaks. Public information representative Nancy Nydam told me, “As of today, there have been 49 COVID-19 church/place of worship outbreak investigations reported to DPH.” She added that as a result of those investigations, 517 cases have been reported as have 91 hospitalizations and 15 deaths.

As of today, GA has reported 241,702 cases and 4,795 deaths. Thus, in GA, church outbreaks have been a small fraction of total cases.  However, these cases may be accelerating. There were 8 place of worship outbreaks from August 6-12 of the 110 outbreaks in Georgia during that time period.* As churches have come together in person, outbreaks have increased. The low total numbers may not be due to safety in church as much as because many churches were meeting online until recently.

As of August 18, 2020 in the U.S., I count 263 religious gatherings associated with at least 3,136 cases of COVID-19 and 43 deaths. My sense is that it is getting harder to keep up with them as churches are beginning to relax their restrictions.

*From the Coastal Health District of the GA Dept of Health website. There were 110 total from August 6-12, 2020. An outbreak is defined as 2 cases or more.

These outbreaks are occurring in settings where people are physically congregating and underscore the need for distancing and source control.

  • Long-term care facilities 23
  • Schools/school athletic teams 14
  • Offices/workplaces 14
  • Manufacturing facilities 13
  • Prisons/jails 13
  • Churches 8
  • Restaurants 4

Outbreaks were also documented in hospitals/outpatient facilities, daycares and grocery stores.