FACT CHECK: CDC Director Did NOT Claim 75% of All Covid Deaths Involved Four or More Serious Comorbidities


Fox News and many conservatives have falsely claimed that CDC Chief Dr. Rochelle Walensky has “admitted” that 75 percent of all Covid deaths occurred in people with at least 4 grave comorbidities.

On Friday’s edition of Good Morning America, co-anchor Cecilia Vega asked Dr. Walensky about a new study published by the CDC, and while a key chunk of Walensy’s answer was edited out, the context was clear enough for anyone who wanted to accurately report it. Here’s how the original exchange aired:

VEGA: I want to ask you about those encouraging headlines that we’re talking about this morning, this new study showing just how well vaccines are working to prevent severe illness. Given that, is it time to start rethinking how we’re living with this virus, that it’s potentially here to stay?”

DR. WALENSKY: The overwhelming number of death, over 75 percent, occurred in people who had at least four comorbidities. So really, these are people who were unwell to begin with. And yes, really encouraging news in the context of omicron. This means not only just to get your primary series but to get your booster series, and yes, we’re really encouraged by these results.

Many conservatives wrongly seized on the remark as an “admission” that 75 percent of ALL Covid deaths were of people “who were unwell to begin with,” and thus reasoned that the threat of Covid had been exaggerated all along.

Granted, Dr. Walensky’s remark, lifted from context, left open that misinterpretation … if you didn’t listen to Vega’s question, and didn’t look up the study that’s readily available and/or read tweets from someone who had. That study was clear enough for a layperson to understand (emphasis added):

Among 1,228,664 persons who completed primary vaccination during December 2020–October 2021, a total of 2,246 (18.0 per 10,000 vaccinated persons) developed COVID-19 and 189 (1.5 per 10,000) had a severe outcome, including 36 who died (0.3 deaths per 10,000). Risk for severe outcomes was higher among persons who were aged ≥65 years, were immunosuppressed, or had at least one of six other underlying conditions. All persons with severe outcomes had at least one of these risk factors, and 77.8% of those who died had four or more risk factors. Severe COVID-19 outcomes after primary vaccination are rare; however, vaccinated persons who are aged ≥65 years, are immunosuppressed, or have other underlying conditions might be at increased risk.

The study goes on to explain that these aren’t ordinary risk factors like obesity or smoking, but a specific set of serious comorbidities: “immunosuppression, diabetes, and chronic kidney, cardiac, pulmonary, neurologic, and liver disease.”

And even after the CDC pressured ABC News into releasing the full clip following Mediaite’s inquiries, Fox News hosts like Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham continued to report the erroneous information. Texas Senator Ted Cruz quote-tweeted a GOP official who tweeted out the edited clip, and added his own commentary, which he has since deleted:


Some of us have been saying this for TWO DAMN YEARS.

Dems & corporate media said we we nuts.

Now, without the slightest hint of shame, they admit it.

No kidding [sic], Sherlock.

But as conservative radio host Erick Erickson pointed out Monday night, the study that Dr. Walensky referenced is “actually really good news for the vaccine.”

Republican pollster Frank Luntz also pushed back against the misinformation, tweeting that “If you follow any accounts that insist Dr. Walensky said ‘75% of COVID deaths had 4 co-morbidities,’ you’re being lied to.”

Watch above via ABC News.

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