The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not report that COVID-19 is far less deadly than originally thought, and yet that falsehood seemed to explode on social media in recent days, garnering even a retweet from the president. 

Do not be fooled. The novel coronavirus remains a threat to public health that has killed 183,050 Americans, as of Tuesday, and disrupted the economy.

Sadly, the misinformation appears to be another convincing illustration of how some people on social media are quick to spread falsehoods that fit their biases — a knee-jerk tendency that poses a serious threat to the concept of self-government.

What the CDC did report was a detailed accounting of what it, and many other health officials, have long reported about the novel coronavirus: It is more likely to kill someone who has one or more underlying health concern, whether that is obesity, diabetes, heart disease or something else. Most people who die from COVID-19 have other conditions that were noted as contributing factors on their death certificates.

The CDC report on “comorbidities” said 6% of the death certificates it studied listed only COVID-19 as the cause. For the other 94%, “there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death.”

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That doesn’t mean those people died from the other conditions. The coronavirus caused their deaths. The other conditions made it harder for their bodies to fight it off.

In addition, as the CDC clarified in an email reported by Fox News, COVID-19 can lead to other illnesses, such as pneumonia or respiratory distress, which then may be listed on death certificates.

“The underlying cause of death is the condition that began the chain of events that ultimately led to the person’s death,” the CDC said. “In 92% of all deaths that mention COVID-19, COVID-19 is listed as the underlying cause of death.”

In an earlier report, the CDC said, “An estimated 60 percent of American adults have at least one chronic medical condition.” Obesity is one of the most common.

If anything, the “comorbidities” report ought to make people more concerned about the virus.

Instead, however, some on social media have inaccurately suggested a need to relax rules about social distancing and mask-wearing because, apparently, few healthy people can die from it.

A Twitter poster with the handle @littlemel, copied a Facebook post and tweeted that the CDC had “quietly” admitted to the 6% figure, which led her to calculate the actual death count as 9,210. “That’s a pretty big BOOM,” she said.

Actually, it’s not. The boom is in how dangerously false her notion is.

Some news reports have associated @littlemel and others spreading this misinformation as members of QAnon, an anonymous right-wing conspiracy driven group. Twitter removed the tweet on Sunday, but other versions of it persist there, as well as on Facebook.

Regardless of the source, Americans must develop the skills necessary to treat all sensational claims with skepticism until they can be verified. In an age when intelligence sources report that foreign operatives and others are working hard to influence how Americans think and act, those skills are essential.

With regard to the current pandemic, it could be a matter of life or death. Believing the virus is harmless would be a horrible mistake.