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Fact Checking Claims About a Statement by Rochelle Walensky
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Fact Checking Claims About a Statement by Rochelle Walensky

A viral video of the CDC director discussing COVID deaths and comorbidities is missing context.

On Monday, a video went viral in which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said, “The overwhelming number of [COVID-19] death, over 75%, occurred in people who had at least four comorbidities.” 

The video came from an interview Walensky did on Good Morning America, and was cited as proof that coronavirus is a virus with limited risk for all but the already ill. But the presentation of Walensky’s comments removes important context: Walensky did not say 75 percent of COVID deaths have occurred among those with four comorbidities; she said that 75 percent of COVID deaths among the vaccinated members of a recent study have occurred among those with four comorbidities.

You can watch the full segment of the video here:

Walensky referenced a CDC study that was released on January 7, 2022, the same day she appeared on Good Morning America. The study reported that among the 1.2 million subjects who received either both shots of the mRNA vaccines or one shot of available traditional vaccines between December 2020 and October 2021, only 36 (.0033 percent) died. Of the 36 who passed away, 28 (77.8 percent) had at least four underlying risk factors, also called comorbidities. Severe outcomes were defined as “hospitalization with a diagnosis of acute respiratory failure, need for noninvasive ventilation (NIV), [or] admission to an intensive care unit (ICU) including all persons requiring invasive mechanical ventilation.”

Kathleen Conley, a spokesperson for Walensky, confirmed to The Dispatch Fact Check that the Walensky’s comments were in reference to the study. 

The latest provisional data from the CDC shows that 95 percent of individuals with COVID listed on their death certificate had at least one underlying risk factor. Conley did not respond to a request for information on what percent of the general and unvaccinated population who passed away had four or more comorbidities. 

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Alec Dent is a former culture editor and staff writer for The Dispatch.