Minnesota senator and medical physician Dr. Scott Jensen says he is under investigation by the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice for allegedly spreading misinformation about COVID-19.
Jensen revealed the investigation in a Facebook video on Sunday, saying the medical board is focusing on "reckless advice" he had given by comparing COVID-19 with the flu, as well as comments he made regarding CDC guidelines for the completion of death certificates in an interview with Fargo news broadcaster Chris Berg in April – which went viral.
"When I got this news, I was ticked," Jensen, who is retiring from the Senate at the end of his term but is rumored to be considering a run for Minnesota governor as a Republican, said in the video, which has now been viewed one million times.
“If this could happen to me because of my views, it could happen to anybody," he added.
As COVID-19 escalated in Minnesota in April, Jensen appeared on Berg's show to talk about guidance received by the Centers of Disease Control that relates to the filling out of death certificates by physicians, physicians' assistants, and registered nurses.
In a tweet that subsequently went viral, Berg made the claim based on Jensen's interview that Minnesota was inflating its COVID-19 death figures, with Jensen alleging that the CDC was telling doctors to list COVID-19 as the cause of death when it's suspected, but not confirmed by a positive test.
Jensen subsequently appeared on FOX News to criticize the CDC guidelines, claiming this was happening because "fear is a great way to control people" and also suggested doctors were doing this to get greater reimbursements from the government for COVID-19 cases. His views have also appeared on the notorious conspiracy website Infowars and have been shared online by followers of the conspiracy cult known as QAnon.
What the CDC told doctors was that it "would be acceptable" to list COVID-19 on a death certificate as "probable" or "presumed" in the absence of a positive test if "the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty," but ultimately it would leave it up to doctors, physicians assistants and RNs filling out death certificates to "use their best clinical judgement in determining if a COVID–19 infection was likely."
The CDC issued this guidance during the early days of the pandemic, when there was a dearth of testing available nationally, while at the same time there was a spike in deaths where pneumonia was present – a common development in a severe COVID-19 infection.
Minnesota doesn't include deaths listed as "probable" or "suspected" as being from COVID-19 in its overall death figures. It parses them out separately, with there currently being 37 "probable" COVID-19 deaths on top of the 1,471 (as of Sunday) that have been confirmed by a positive test.
The viral nature of Jensen's comments drew rebuke from among others Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who called the conspiracy theories about the disease "very unfortunate."
Jensen later told the Star Tribune that he's disappointed with how his comments had been handled, saying that "things are being taken out of context."
While it's not clear from his video on Sunday what he's being investigated for regarding the comparison between flu and COVID-19, Jensen did post a video on his Facebook page on Mar. 27 comparing the then-greater number of deaths from flu in Minnesota to the deaths from COVID-19, even though COVID-19 has subsequently been found to be deadlier.
Jensen said he will cooperate with the investigation.