McDonald Commentary: Questions and Comments Prompt Search for COVID-19 Answers

By Julie McDonald / For The Chronicle
Posted 9/27/21

The COVID-19 pandemic is a creation of the media. COVID-19 was created in a lab. Vaccines don’t work. Masks don’t work. They died of comorbidities, not COVID-19. Hospitals earn kickbacks …

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McDonald Commentary: Questions and Comments Prompt Search for COVID-19 Answers


The COVID-19 pandemic is a creation of the media. COVID-19 was created in a lab. Vaccines don’t work. Masks don’t work. They died of comorbidities, not COVID-19. Hospitals earn kickbacks by saying someone died of COVID-19.

These are all comments I’ve read on Facebook beneath news stories about COVID-19, the vaccines and mask mandates. I shake my head, wondering where they’re finding such information that they insist is correct, but then I hear similar accounts from people I interact with in person.

Even elected and appointed local officials tout unfounded conspiracy theories and COVID-19 remedies debunked by the nation’s top scientists. Can they all be right and epidemiologists from the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control be wrong?

So, I decided to ask local officials. I received detailed responses from Dr. Rob McElhaney of Mary’s Corner Medical Clinic, the first to start testing for COVID-19 locally; Dr. Kevin Caserta, chief medical officer for Providence Centralia and Providence St. Peter hospitals; JP Anderson, director of Lewis County Public Health and Social Services; and a state Department of Health representative. I never heard back from Valley View Health Center or Richard DeBolt, executive director of the Lewis County Economic Development Council, which hosted a meeting earlier this month to discuss COVID-19.

Do hospitals and clinics receive more money if they list a death as COVID-19 rather than the flu, pneumonia, or something else?

The rumor may stem from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). According to a May 6, 2020, Reuters fact-checking article, while the nation remained in a state of emergency, the CARES Act allowed New York hospitals to receive 20% more in reimbursement for Medicare and uninsured patients diagnosed with COVID-19 because of increased costs incurred in caring for people with an infectious disease.

“I am not aware of any financial incentives offered to hospitals and clinics specific to COVID deaths,” Anderson said. 

Dr. McElhaney said hospitals and physicians are paid differently by both the government and private payers. Outpatient providers are paid by procedure code and not by diagnosis code, he said. Whether he’s treating patients with COVID-19, heart attack, ear infections or wounds, what matters is the complexity of the evaluation and management.

“It boils down to the fact that no outpatient physician gets paid more based on whether they diagnose a patient with COVID or not,” McElhaney said.

He noted that hospitals make most of their money from surgeries and procedures rather than taking care of sick people. Hospitals that do joint replacements, open heart surgeries, endoscopies and plastic, back or other surgeries earn much more money than one that simply takes care of people with pneumonia, infectious shock, seizures, pulmonary embolisms, strokes and other ailments.

“I would be shocked if hospitals are making more taking care of COVID patients than what they make when there is not a pandemic,” McElhaney said. 

They aren’t, according to Dr. Caserta with Providence St. Peter and Centralia hospitals. 

“Hospitals do not receive money based on the cause of death,” he said. “We do not do the final determination of death; that is done by the coroner. The COVID-19 pandemic has actually resulted in a significant financial hardship for our hospitals as the cost of overtime, extra shift bonuses and supplies are significantly higher, and we are postponing large numbers of elective procedures as we shift resources to care for COVID-19 patients.”

“The medical profession as a whole is not profiting from COVID (except maybe the morgues),” McElhaney said. “I don’t doubt that Pfizer, Moderna and JNJ are profiting, but to try and implicate them in a broader conspiracy suggesting they helped create COVID somehow so they can profit is in the same category as believing the earth is flat.”

Do all the people who have died in Providence St. Peter and Providence Centralia hospitals from COVID-19 have comorbidities/underlying health conditions? 

“Most but not all people who die from COVID are either over 65 or have comorbidities,” McElhaney acknowledged. “That being said, I knew a 75-year-old with no health problems and an overweight 35-year-old who both died.”

It’s sad to see some people look at COVID-19 as a kind of evolutionary penalty for those inferior to themselves, he said. 

“People are dying who don’t have to,” McElhaney said. “Anyone who believes they are safe can usually find a … relative or close friend who would be considered high risk.”

Caserta and Anderson both noted that not everyone who died of COVID-19 suffered from underlying health conditions.

“We have had very healthy people die of COVID-19,” Caserta said. “Personally, I have a friend who was very healthy and exercised regularly die before the vaccine was available. Unfortunately, with the delta variant, we are seeing a much younger population hospitalized and even die from COVID-19.”

How many of the people who died of COVID-19 at Providence St. Peter and Providence Centralia since June 1 were vaccinated?

People vaccinated against COVID-19 have died, but “about 95% of our COVID-19 deaths have been to individuals who were unvaccinated,” Caserta said.

“I know it is possible to die from COVID after being vaccinated, but of the deaths I’ve personally been touched by, none of the individuals were vaccinated,” McElhaney said.

He noted that Providence posts weekly COVID-19 updates on the number of hospitalizations, patients in intensive care units, and deaths. 

“I recognize some believe these stats are all lies, but they’re quite consistent with those published at OHSU (Oregon Health & Science University) and across the country,” McElhaney said. “Then again, I’m sure some believe there is a broader conspiracy involving Bill Gates, the federal government, all medical and pharmaceutic companies and all but a few of the chosen ones who are going to expose the massive plot.”

In Lewis County, six of the 78 deaths from COVID-19 since Jan. 1 have been among vaccinated people, with one other death under investigation, according to county health officials. That means more than 90% of those who died were unvaccinated. Of those who died, two were in their 30s, one in their 40s, nine in their 50s, 13 in their 60s, 31 in their 70s, nine in their 80s, and 13 in their 90s. (See accompanying chart.)

Do you believe this is a manmade flu?

“COVID-19 and the flu are not the same disease,” said Katie Pope, COVID-19 public information officer with the state Department of Health. “They are caused by different viruses (influenza and coronavirus). However, both influenza virus and coronaviruses are known to mutate frequently.”

McElhaney said he doesn’t believe COVID-19 is manmade. 

“It is too similar to a previously known bat virus and not unique,” he said. “It is possible that a mutation of the known virus was created in a lab, but I personally think that’s unlikely.”

It’s much more likely that the virus found in bats mutated naturally, he said.

Anderson said the origins of COVID-19 doesn’t affect his role or how health officials address the pandemic on the local level.

Caserta agreed.

“My focus is on our patients and caregivers,” he said. “I want to thank everyone in our community who are joining us in our efforts to control the pandemic by doing everything they can to help prevent the spread of the virus including masking, social distancing, and getting vaccinated.”

Caserta explained that COVID-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2, which can trigger respiratory tract infections affecting the upper respiratory tract (sinuses, nose, and throat) or lower respiratory tract (windpipe and lungs). It’s one of seven types of coronaviruses. Most cause cold-like symptoms, but others cause severe diseases like the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and sudden acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

“The scary thing about COVID-19 is how quickly it can spread AND how quickly an otherwise healthy person can decompensate — become very sick and even die in a very short time,” Caserta said. “COVID-19 spreads the same way other coronaviruses do, mainly through person-to-person contact.”

Why do you suppose people question the numbers so much with COVID-19 when they didn’t with other fatal illnesses?

“COVID-19 was something that none of us, even folks with emergency response and communicable disease outbreaks training and experience, could really imagine happening the way it did,” Anderson said. “It’s been shocking for everyone, and I think hard to imagine how this could ever happen.”

Caserta pointed to the vast amount of misinformation circulating about COVID-19.

“As a physician, I would encourage everyone to do what they can to stop this disease: get vaccinated, wear a mask, social distance, and practice good hand hygiene,” he said. “I have been vaccinated myself, and so have my wife and children.”

“There has been a lot more misinformation spreading with COVID-19 than with other diseases in the past, although we have seen some level of misinformation about nearly every other vaccine-preventable disease as well,” Pope said. “For someone who may not have thought a lot about communicable diseases before the pandemic, it can be very difficult to sort out what's true from what’s not. That’s why we offer simplified, easy-to-understand information and data about the virus and the vaccine at”

“I suspect if HIV or Ebola were new today that there would be similar conspiracies involving the origin of these viruses,” McElhaney said. 

He noted that misinformation has plenty of outlets to spread nowadays.

“When I was young, I recall four sources of media that quickly disseminated information and influenced individuals’ beliefs regarding the status of the world around them: ABC, CBS, NBC and your local newspaper.”

Today, people can access tens of thousands of sources of information — some fact, some fiction and some in between. So-called influencers become cult heroes after they post blogs with their opinions often stated as fact or cite pseudoscience, which may start with facts and trail off into unproven conjecture they label as fact. 

“COVID has created so much physical, financial, emotional and social trauma that many have dug into a set mind-frame and aren’t willing to entertain an alternative reality as to what they believe,” McElhaney said. “They seek only sources that support their set belief (however farfetched and biased those sources may be).”

He said people confirm their beliefs by looking at one person they know with only a mild case of COVID-19, then extrapolate that because of that one experience, the pandemic is exaggerated and untrue. Or if someone else was quite sick and improved after taking ivermectin, then the medicine made them better. If a person who was vaccinated contracts COVID-19, then vaccinations don’t work.

“Unfortunately, I believe the skepticism we see with COVID is only the start of a technologically driven double-edged sword,” McElhaney said. “Thanks to the internet and the rapid spread of scientific information, I believe that in our lifetime we will see genetic treatments and immunologic cure of disease we could only dream about today (think Alzheimer’s, various cancers, HIV…). We will also see media-driven social discord that could make 2021 look like child’s play.

“Personally, I am much more optimistic about our medical and health future than I am about our social future.”


Julie McDonald, a personal historian from Toledo, may be reached at


10 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • Amusednrefined

    Nailed it! Very good information.

    Monday, September 27, 2021 Report this

  • Youngcontrarian

    Very informative. Hopefully some of these holdouts will see the reason and logic. Keeping my fingers crossed.

    Monday, September 27, 2021 Report this

  • TheGillans

    Well done! It's a shame it won't be read by those who believe in FaceBook science.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2021 Report this

  • LLHauer

    Thank you for an exceptionally well-done article, Ms. McDonald. I appreciate your intelligent selection of a diversity of real voices from across the county, representing a variety of important experience and expertise to support the credibility of their viewpoints and the info they offer. This is good journalism.

    I also appreciate that the Chronicle is offering articles of this quality to provide its readership local, credible voices. As each of us picks and sorts our way through a world flooded with information to try to understand what’s really going on, this kind of reporting is important to forming wise and sensible viewpoints.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2021 Report this

  • ddavis

    Now, where is her research presenting the other side of this debate. Let's do this article fairly and discuss both narratives, please.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2021 Report this

  • Howard

    In 2021 99,922 people in a county that has 100,000 people has survived covid 19.

    The Covid-19 pandemic has been laden with fear by the media and reporters. Most skeptical thoughts happened during the initial shut done. Hospitals closed its front doors. Make shift covid tents were set up outside the hospitals with drive through testing sites. A picture of doom and gloom was painted in the media. After numerous whistle blowers decided to come forth, citizen journalism took front seat as CNN, NBC and yes even Fox News took a back seat.

    Videos started surfacing of empty hospitals. Not just in the United States but worldwide. Facebook, Instagran and Twitter and Youtube started deleting them.

    All of a sudden American business were labeled as 'Essential" or "Nonessential". You ether are important or you are not. Second red flag. Alchol, Beer, pot, Big Box Stores ect. Millions were forced to close their doors and watch these so called "essential stores" remain open. All they had to do was follow covid guidlines. Put up a plastic sheild, wear a mask and boom... You cant catch covid here.

    Sure, the American people were taken care of. The first stimulus check of $1200 .. Do we pay gas, or get groceries with that? Over 40 Million lost their jobs. But Amazon, Walmart, Pzifer, Johnson & Johnson, Facebook ect all profited. Why, we were forced to be scared and stay home. These companies made billions. Funny, Pzizer and Johnson and Johnson? Weird.

    Family's reported their loved ones were dying in NY hospitals unnecessary. Patients being put on ventilators unnecessary/ . Nurses by the dozens coming out stating that many did not need to die. Stating that the hospital got extra money if they were charted as a covid patient rather than regular pneumonia.

    All of a sudden anyone questioning what the hell is going on is labeled a conspiracy theorist.

    CDC reports changed, Fauci promotes mask use, but gets caught all the time with out thyem. Changes to do not wear a mask to wear a mask.

    So, yes Julie. We have questions. We have a lot of questions. And this article was nothing new. We can look up the numbers ourselves. All you did was church it up with your spin. You interviewed Dr.s at private offices. Not medical facilities. Reports are coming out that 20,000 people have died from the clot shot.

    It just so happens that google has the ability to hide answers. And getting the truth is becoming harder and harder. And then we have to read this article. I mean you tried, you really did. But it didnt state anything new.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2021 Report this

  • Howard

    Tell our seniors how optimistic you are about our health and medical future than our social future.. They had zero loved ones visit them in 2020. I am not sure what the rules are now. But no man, women or child is suppose to masked up and social distanced. We are humans who need our community and our family. We need to socialize. It is unhealthy.

    More rapes, incest, sodomy and domestic violence's and suicides' happen than the death rate of covid. That is a direct link to the shut down.

    America as whole is not buying this, Julie. How can we trust a clot shot, Julie. We cant even trust our administration. Trump just got booed at his ralley for telling people to get the vax... I am sure he owns stock. Biden can't complete a full sentence. And the national F**k Joe Biden chants at the concerts and games are not some coincidence. This Julie, is why America doesn't believe in the fluffed up articles you and people like you write.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2021 Report this

  • Youngcontrarian

    Hey Winlock. Is your village missing one of they're many idiots. He's right here. Above me.

    Thursday, September 30, 2021 Report this

  • ginny822

    " Can they all be right and epidemiologists from the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control be wrong?"

    Yes, they can all be wrong because they've all been lying, just like Dr. Fauci. And the reason you won't find the truth on Facebook is because it's censored!! It's also censored on Twitter.

    At the beginning of the "plandemic" CDC told doctors to falsify death certificates, attributing all deaths to COVID-19. It didn't matter if someone died as a result of a car accident, or cancer or whatever, it was listed as 'death by Covid-19.' The hospitals got a kickback from all COVID-19 deaths they reported.

    Can you handle some truth? These are websites that Facebook and Twitter censor.


    Employers are uniting and preparing lawsuits against Biden’s seditious vaccine and testing mandates

    There's also a video (I can't find it now) of Dr. Fauci saying "masks are useless."

    Friday, October 1, 2021 Report this


    Same ole bile

    Tuesday, October 5, 2021 Report this