File-Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis.

(The Center Square) – Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita defended his comments about not trusting COVID-19 numbers, saying there’s been a lack of transparency in the data and the decisions made based on that data by government officials at all levels.

“Much of the public’s exhaustion with those who hold the levers of power comes from a lack of transparency,” he wrote in a long statement sent to the media late last week. “That is something I tacitly acknowledged when I raised concerns over COVID-19 statistics in a recent media interview.”

He went on to say Hoosiers “lose confidence in government decision-making when there are inconsistencies and a lack of transparency in data.”

“This is especially true if, like here, the data is so subjective in the first place,” he wrote. “This lack of clarity leaves many to believe government officials are making decisions based more on politics than on data.”

Rokita gave an interview to television station WSBT in South Bend on Dec 17.

“First of all, I don’t believe any numbers anymore,” he’d said in that television appearance. “This has been politicized from day one.”

He went on to say the omicron variant is “a much milder variant” and the focus should be on deaths, not on the number of cases.

Gov. Eric Holcomb held a press conference 12 days later where he was asked by a reporter about “disinformation” and launched into a response to Rokita, saying he was “stunned and somewhat blindsided” by the attorney general saying he didn’t trust the data, and said if there’s “a shred of evidence” that anyone has inflated numbers, Rokita or others need to report it to the state's inspector general.

On Thursday, Rokita offered the fullest response to Holcomb so far in the statement sent to the media that was entitled "Hoosiers deserve transparency in reporting of Covid data so they can make their own medical decisions."

Rokita said the lack of transparency in decision-making by officials at all levels of government is among the most common complaints and mentioned what he called confusion over whether officials are actually reporting numbers of people who died “of COVID-19,” or numbers of people who died “with COVID-19.”

Rokita said he “did not attack any elected official” and says he “did not call into question” the work of medical professionals in Indiana or question anyone’s motives.

“What I did do is raise a concern over how these statistics are created, compiled and, more importantly, how they are presented to the public," he wrote. "Media report after media report lists numbers without any nuance or background to go with those numbers.”

The Indiana State Department of Health has maintained an online dashboard to track the number of people infected with COVID-19, with breakdowns by county, age, cases, deaths and the number of ICU beds and ventilators available.

The state’s dashboard  shows of the 18,794 people in the state who died of COVID-19 between March 16, 2020 and January 5, 2022, 0.2% were people age 0-19, which would be about 37.

In response to requests for more information, the Indiana State Department of Health has said the numbers include children whose death certificates listed COVID as the cause of death and also those whose deaths certificates listed COVID as only a “contributing cause” of death. The department has notresponded to a request for the number of children in Indiana who have died with only COVID listed on their death certificate.

In response to an inquiry in 2021, IU Health, the largest hospital network in the state, said it could not provide a number of how many COVID patients in its hospitals in southwest Indiana were actually sick with COVID, as opposed to just having tested positive for COVID on admission to the hospital to be treated for something else.

Rokita noted similar issues in other states, saying the governor of 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 while at the hospital.”

Rokita said he didn’t think anyone was “above questioning – or answering questions – especially those we have elected to represent us at any level of government.”

“A hallmark of a republic is the ability to ask questions and seek answers from our government,” he said. “Asking questions and raising concerns over reported Covid-19 ‘statistics’ is not about politics but about transparency. We should celebrate the drive to seek the truth.”