A screenshot of Rich Coleman’s deleted tweet. (Twitter/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

A screenshot of Rich Coleman’s deleted tweet. (Twitter/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Former cabinet minister Coleman deletes inaccurate tweet downplaying COVID-19 death rate

The tweet drew harsh criticism on social media

Former Langley East MLA Rich Coleman tweeted and then deleted a meme that downplayed the risk of dying from the COVID-19 virus.

On Boxing Day, Dec. 26, Coleman tweeted a meme that asked “How will we know if the vaccines are working? Will the survival rate go up from 99.5% to 99.7%?”

He deleted the original tweet that evening, saying online that “on reflection thought it wasn’t that funny. My bad.”

Coleman, who was the Liberal MLA for Fort Langley-Aldergrove and then Langley East from 1996 to earlier this year, was deluged with criticism on the social media site both before and after he deleted the inaccurate tweet.

Coleman did not run for re-election, and the Langley East seat is currently held by NDP MLA Megan Dykeman following the October provincial election.

“Sometimes you don’t get it right, and I didn’t,” Coleman told the Langley Advance Times Monday.

“It wasn’t me trying to make any comment about vaccines, because I’m a a big supporter of vaccines,” Coleman said.

He said he apologized for the earlier tweet.

The total death rate from coronavirus in B.C., according to the BC Centre for Disease Control statistics is not 0.5 per cent or 0.3 per cent, as the original tweet suggested, but 1.66 per cent, with the survival rate 98.44 per cent.

To put that into perspective, if 1.66 per cent of British Columbia’s population of 5.07 million people died, that would be more than 84,000 deaths – equal to more than half the total population of Langley.

The death rate from COVID-19 is not evenly distributed.

There have been almost no deaths among British Columbians under 40 years old, even though more 20 to 29 year olds have contracted the virus than any other age group.

But starting at middle age, the threat of hospitalization and death rises sharply.

B.C.’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, presented a slide in her Dec. 23 briefing showing that among 60 to 69 year olds who tested positive for COVID-19, the death rate was more than five per cent.

Those aged 70 to 79 had a nearly 20 per cent chance of dying, and the death rate was about 40 per cent for 80 to 89 year olds.

In Langley Lodge’s outbreak, one of the worst in the province, 25 residents of 51 who contracted the disease died. In addition to being a death rate of almost 50 per cent, the outbreak killed more than 17 per cent of the approximately 140 residents in the entire facility.

More recently, Langley has seen outbreaks at the Fort Langley Seniors Community that killed 11 people and in Langley Memorial Hospital killing 10.

Vaccinations began in B.C. in mid-December, with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines approved and now being deployed. But public health experts and authorities have been concerned about misinformation making people hesitant to get vaccinated, thus making the population more vulnerable and drawing out the pandemic.

READ MORE: Langley Lodge outbreak raises questions about outbreak that killed 25

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