Todd Rokita: Lack of transparency raises questions about data

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Can government COVID data be trusted?

For Hoosiers in every corner of the state, the response to COVID-19 has been confusing, frustrating and, for many, financially costly.

One of the most common complaints is the lack of transparency tied to the decision-making of officials at all levels of government.

As published in an Association of American Medical Colleges journal in February of last year, confusion has surrounded “whether people die ‘of’ COVID-19 or ‘with’ COVID-19.” The journal noted a case in which a man significantly ill from terminal cancer entered a hospital while also infected with COVID-19 and later died. His death was recorded as a COVID-19 death statistic.

Much of the public’s exhaustion with those who hold the levers of power comes from a lack of transparency. That is something I tacitly acknowledged when I raised concerns over COVID-19 statistics in a recent media interview.

Regular Hoosiers lose confidence in government decision-making when there are inconsistencies and a lack of transparency in data. This lack of clarity leaves many to believe government officials are making decisions based more on politics than on data.

In noting these concerns, I did not attack any elected official; I did not call into question the hard work of our medical professionals in Indiana who have been dealing with the effects of this pandemic (in fact, I praised them); and I did not question the motives of everyone who has used these statistics.

What I did do is raise a concern over how these statistics are created, compiled and, more important, how they are presented to the public.

I learned long ago that good leadership means maintaining trust—and that trust is not given but earned. One of the most successful ways to earn the trust of Hoosiers is to install a culture of transparency in the agencies one leads.

And this trust goes both ways. As leaders, we must trust and empower our fellow Hoosiers to make their own medical decisions. As I have said publicly multiple times, including in a recent media interview, whether to get a vaccine is between you and your doctor, not the political bent of elected leaders, the media or your boss at work.

Time and time again, President Biden and his leftist government bureaucrats seem more driven by politics than science in their decision-making.

The left and state officials across the nation have used the guise of the pandemic—often politicizing data—to further their control and reach into the lives of Americans. Mandates, lockdowns and school closures have all been justified by politicization of data. Many Americans are fed up with it.

As public frustration moves against the top-down control pushed by the left, they have changed how they approach COVID data. New York is changing how the state counts COVID hospitalizations to note the difference between those being hospitalized because of COVID and those being hospitalized for other reasons but testing positive for COVID while at the hospital.

Even the president’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, finally admitted to MSNBC that “if you look at the children that are hospitalized, many of them are hospitalized with COVID, as opposed to because of COVID.”

This brings me back to the questions raised about COVID data. No one is above questioning—or answering questions—especially those we have elected to represent us at any level of government. We should celebrate the drive to seek the truth.•


Rokita, a Repubican, is Indiana attorney general and a former member of the U.S. House.

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17 thoughts on “Todd Rokita: Lack of transparency raises questions about data

  1. It is very unfortunate, that a high profile politician with no medical background, has the audacity to spout off again about a topic of which he obviously has no understanding. It has quite clear, he has no understanding of the nature of a pandemic. He apparently thinks that he can spend a short sound bite to make such a profound and inaccurate statement about a very complicated issue of the incidence of COVID-19 and its morbidity and mortality. There are literally thousands of healthcare, researchers, and statisticians around the country working hard to make sense of the constantly changing landscape of this pandemic and the ever changing SARS CoV-2 virus. As new information is being obtained, understanding and mitigation plans are evolving or should be evolving. However, that is not occurring in our State.

    Yes, the Governor has extended the public health emergency for another month. However, he has not made vaccinations, masks, or any other type of COVID mitigation rules with consequences. It is nothing more than a bunch of “Please, Please, and Please.” In addition, the Indiana legislature is working quickly to pass laws to prevent businesses from requiring vaccinations. In other words: NO PLAN, NO LEADERSHIP.

    The situation has been made worse by our AG, making inaccurate assessments to confuse the public even more. He had his opportunity on TV to make his statements. IBJ should NOT have given him the opportunity to spout off again. The stakes are too high to allow misinformation to mislead the public. Indiana citizens are suffering as a result. More of our citizens are getting sick and dying every day because of the lack of governmental action in our State.

    1. Thank you Dr. Toth for your truthful and insightful response. Our AG says the the “left” is politicizing Covid. That is untrue. The various mandates that have been proposed are in direct response to the science which has proven that the only way to combat Covid is via vaccines, masks, social distancing and in some cases closures. The AG (as well as the conservative state legislatures) is the one politicizing these issues. Their resistance in the name of personal freedom and the misinformation are directly responsible for the virus going unchecked. The AG wants our trust and respect, but spouts untruths and does not deserve either.

    1. Funny how I can find the same medical “experts” with acronyms behind their names to argue the complete opposite. And herein lies the problem. They haven’t had the answers and still don’t have answers since this started but won’t admit it. The vaccines aren’t resistant to the new variant. It’s okay to say we’ve never seen this before but here are the steps we should take. You can’t and shouldn’t be able to force American citizens to follow your orders; follow them yourself and do what you think is right. The subject matter experts have flip flopped for two years and have lost all credibility. Like Rokita, I want to see all of the statistics as well. Show me the stats on Delta, Omicron and deaths with Covid rather than from since March 2020. The comorbidity issue has also finally come to light. Give me all the facts and stop the individual beliefs and narratives. Two years in and we’re still flailing around. Sadly, I don’t think the data that I’ve mentioned are even available due to lack of transparency and accurate tracking since Covid hit in 1Q2020.

    1. And lots of folks who die after getting COVID aren’t counted as COVID deaths, either.

      “ What’s happening is, mainly, a pandemic — the toll of which is not being fully reflected in Covid-19 death numbers, as OneAmerica Financial Partners CEO J. Scott Davison explained in a Dec. 30 video news conference (it’s all on YouTube) organized by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. “The pandemic-related deaths are much larger than what you’re seeing in the news as the official specific Covid deaths, where Covid was the proximate cause of death on the death certificate,” said Davison, who has been observing the phenomenon through the lens of his company’s life insurance business. “What we’re seeing is that people get Covid, they kind of recover, and then they die from some sort of disease mechanism that was impacted by the fact that they got Covid in the first place.”

  2. Asking for transparency in the data so the public can review without the tampering of financial incentives for hospitals, HCPs, and drug manufacturers to keep the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain is all the educated have asked for since March 2020

  3. A query and a comment:

    What do people mean by “transparency in the data?” Do we hire the Cyber Ninjas to forensically audit insurance claims?

    And, how is it the fault of Joe Biden and the “Left” that Trump created the only national lockdown, Trump closed the schools and Trump issued the mask mandate (federal buildings, transportation etc.)?

  4. Numbers aren’t political, Todd Rokita is political.

    People are still dying. Children are still sick. Healthcare workers are among the hardest hit.

    To spin this as anything other than a complete and total failure of this state’s Republican leadership is a complete joke, but I guess that’s the only talking point he has anymore.

  5. Dear AG Rokita: I truly hope this is the end of your political career. You have had enough opportunities to do real, positive work on behalf of Indiana citizen taxpayers, but you have wasted the majority of that time playing political games and looking for attention. In terms of politicians who put party and self-advancement ahead of the people, you’re the worst of the worst, and many of us (even Republicans like me) have known this for a while. But to question your fellow government officials and the healthcare professionals aligned alongside them right now in the difficult fight against COVID over these stats… Well, only the few political hacks out there with your level of ego could make such as choice.

  6. Mr. Rolita is absolutely right … the COVID cases numbers are inaccurate, but not in the way he thinks. They are grossly under-reported. Many people do not get or can not access testing. Many now test at home and do not report positive results to health officials. Deaths are deaths. During the COVID pandemic, overall population life expectancy has declined, “unexpected deaths” have increased significantly, and mortality related to other associated medical conditions have risen. Deaths outside hospitals and ER’s have increased significantly. These are hard facts that are hard to politicize.

  7. The people who have politicized the pandemic since lockdowns started and masks were mandated are people on the far-right. I had not previously thought Todd Rokita was far-right enough to politicize aspects of the pandemic, but like most other folks who are Conservative politicians, Todd sees his only path to future office as pushing farther to the right. Unfortunately, this means using the playbook we’ve seen over the past few years:
    1. Question validity of data and sow the seeds of doubt without facts or data.
    2. Walk back the attack slightly then say the media is sensationalizing or biased in some way, then question again.
    3. Suggest legislation or reasons why measures are needed to combat the evil “left” who provided, believe or use the data
    4. Use far-right constituents’ fears and conspiracy theories to justify the new legislation saying, “There is alot of people who doubt this data and don’t trust the so-called experts who don’t know as much as we do.”

    1. For your consideration, my father had Alzheimers and contracted covid in Nov 2020. He stayed at home for 2 weeks until we could not get him to eat and drink enough and he became dehydrated. The VA Hospital gave IV’s and stabilized him, then placed him into a covid positive recovery location nearby. They failed to monitor him close enough and he slipped into dehydration, then electrolyte imbalance, then high potassium levels, then kidney failure, then he passed away in Dec 2020.

      Q: How would you classify his cause of death?
      A: It was officially listed as “liver failure”
      … was this a conspiracy of the hospital to commit medicare/insurance fraud or was it the doctor’s professional opinion?

  8. Mr. Rokita is truly desperate. Hopefully he doesn’t win any office again. Don’t believe he ever tells the truth, just makes things up! It’s truly so sorry.

  9. I will say as someone who knows an ER Doctor at Riley Children’s Hospital, the inaccurate reporting is a problem. Also having a scientific background, this is disturbing. Just a few examples:

    A week or so ago, the local news announced that Riley had tripled it’s number of patients in their ICU AND that the number of kids testing positive for Covid were ‘through the roof’ for lack of a better term. While is was true, Riley’s ICU now had NINE children instead of the prior week’s THREE patients, not one of them was there due to Covid. So, although the numbers they reported were true, they left people to infer that these kids were in the ICU for Covid which was completely false.

    I personally know of family friends in another county who have had a family member die of a heart attack, but they test everyone for Covid anyway, and reported the death as Covid on the death certificate. The family actually balked and fought for it to be changed due to the inaccuracy.

    Lastly, a doctor on the national news last week admitted that every single person entering the ER of most hospitals are tested for Covid, whether it is for respiratory symptoms, a heart attack, or a broken arm. She also admitted that even if it is a broken arm, they are reporting it as a Covid Positive and it counts as the number of Covid patients entering the ER in data statistics. She made the statement that it produces inaccurate information and they needed to do better.

  10. Rather than point out how profoundly dishonest, grossly self-serving and deeply corrosive this rhetoric is from the asshat we elected as AG, I’ll just give kudos to my fellow Hoosiers with the intelligence and wisdom to not fall into the trap of giving this any credence whatsoever. Reading this stuff always makes me wonder if these people have spouses, children and parents who are too obtuse to be shamed by them.