(Meredith) -- A widespread theory that the CDC suddenly cut its U.S. COVID-19 death toll numbers nearly in half has been circulating around the internet. It is important to know that this theory is not true, but there is a reason why it caught on so quickly.
The theory claims that the CDC was reporting a COVID-19 death toll of more than 60,000 but then reduced the number to around 35,000.
The theory appears to have started in a tweet from author, host and comedian Tim Young, where he claimed the CDC reduced its numbers. That tweet garnered thousands of replies, likes and retweets.
But this claim is false. The CDC has not adjusted its numbers; rather, the department has two separate death toll counts going, which is causing confusion. The theory that the death toll was cut drastically points to CDC data that is delayed by several weeks, which is clearly stated on the CDC's website. This data count is delayed because it is based on fully processed death certificates, which can take weeks to complete.
The CDC website clearly states that this data is delayed, writing: "It is important to note that it can take several weeks for death records to be submitted to National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), processed, coded, and tabulated. Therefore, the data shown on this page may be incomplete, and will likely not include all deaths that occurred during a given time period, especially for the more recent time periods… COVID-19 death counts shown here may differ from other published sources, as data currently are lagged by an average of 1–2 weeks."
However, the CDC has a more current, up-to-date COVID-19 death toll count going, which can be found here. This data shows that the death toll count is still well above 60,000 (as of Monday), as it was before. On that CDC page, it reads: "This page is updated daily based on data confirmed at 4:00pm ET the day before." This more up-to-date page will obviously report higher death numbers than the one whose data lags by a few weeks.
Snopes, a fact-checking website, has also deemed the claim that the CDC significantly reduced its numbers to be false and points to the delayed count causing confusion.
Thus, it is important to know that the CDC has not adjusted its COVID-19 death toll numbers, but rather the department's two separate counts (one delayed and one up-to-date) are causing confusion.