Elon Musk

Billionaire tech mogul and Twitter owner Elon Musk drew criticism from Israel’s Health Ministry Monday, after he cited a recent letter by the ministry stating that there were no known COVID-related deaths of healthy Israelis under 50.

Last week, the ministry responded to a freedom of information request from attorney Ori Shabi, who inquired, among other things, regarding the number of people under 50 without preexisting medical conditions who died with COVID.

In their response, the ministry noted that it had already responded to a similar question regarding COVID deaths among healthy children ages 0 to 17, acknowledging that there were no reported cases of healthy minors dying of COVID.

The ministry added that there were similarly no reported cases of healthy adults under 50 who died with COVID, adding the caveat that the ministry’s database on preexisting conditions is incomplete, and is based on information shared by patients or their families.

Nonetheless, the ministry confirmed in its letter that it had no knowledge of healthy people under 50 dying of COVID.

On Monday, Musk tweeted in response to an article by the libertarian “Zero Hedge” blog which cited the Ministry of Health’s letter.

In his comment, Musk simply wrote: “Zero.”

Shortly afterwards, however, the Israeli Health Ministry pushed back on Musk’s tweet, apparently contradicting its own letter and accusing Musk of spreading “fake news.”

Despite its own letter confirming that its data shows no cases of healthy people under 50 dying from COVID, the ministry’s Twitter account suggested it does know of such cases, citing “clinicians,” without elaborating on the nature of the evidence.

“Elon, unfortunately this is not what the whole data shows. fake news is dangerous. Israel Ministry of Health was asked on chronic disease data and explained that we don’t have access to clinical records.”

“We provided the limited data available if something was shared during epidemiological investigation - this data was available for only 27 people -7.5% of the 356 young people who died of COVID In Israel.”

“We know from clinicians that young healthy people did die from COVID and hopefully data on that will be available on the near future from our HMOs.”

However, critics of the ministry’s handling of the pandemic pointed to previously released documents and freedom of information requests indicating that in addition to the 27 epidemiological investigations of COVID fatalities under 50, the ministry had been receiving data on patients with COVID who died, including information regarding preexisting conditions.

The data reportedly included information from both hospitals and healthcare providers (kupot holim).

Arnon Grossman released one such document; which included instructions from the Health Ministry to hospitals to include information on preexisting conditions for any patient who is suspected of dying while infected with COVID.

“It is requested that in every case where a COVID patient dies…a death notification and report regarding illness/death must be sent to the Health Ministry.”

“Example 1: A fatality suspected of being infected with COVID-19 with preexisting conditions.”