A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Walensky’s remarks were about COVID-19 deaths. Her remarks were about COVID-19 deaths in the vaccinated. The study she referenced has been added.
Asked on ABC’s “Good Morning America” about a study showing that vaccines targeting COVID-19 and its variants have successfully prevented serious illness, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the head of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), said the “overwhelming” number of deaths in vaccinated people occurred in those who had at least four comorbidities.
Walensky started by answering a question about the new CDC guidelines that suggest that people who have contracted the virus should isolate for only five days, reduced from the previous numbers, and then reintegrate into society wearing a mask. She replied:
Isolation, we talk about isolation in the context of people who’ve had a positive test, who know that they are infected. And we now have dozens of studies referenced on the CDC website that have demonstrated that you are most infectious in the one to two days before your symptoms and the two to three days after your symptoms. So by five days after your symptoms, the vast majority of your contagiousness is really behind you.
“And what we say at day five, then, is: Are your symptoms gone? Are you feeling better? Is your cough gone? Sore throat gone?” she continued. “And if so, then it is safe to go out if you are wearing a mask all the time. And that means not going out to restaurants; not going out to gyms, not going out in visiting grandma, but really conscientiously wearing your mask for those last five days.”
“Now, some have said they are interested in using an antigen or a home test at the end of those five days, and if people are interested and have access then they may choose to take that extra step and do that antigen test,” she stated, adding, “And that means that if that test is positive, you should stay home for five days but if that test is negative, you should go out and continue to wear your mask.”
Asked about a new study showing how successful vaccines have been in preventing serious illness and whether that should provoke rethinking about how to live with the virus in perpetuity, Walensky appealed to a study that shows that 78% of vaccinated persons who died had more than four comorbidities.
“The overwhelming number of deaths, over 75%, 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.”
The study, from the CDC, says: “Among 1,228,664 persons who completed primary vaccination during December 2020–October 2021, severe COVID-19–associated outcomes (0.015%) or death (0.0033%) were rare. Risk factors for severe outcomes included age ≥65 years, immunosuppressed, and six other underlying conditions. All persons with severe outcomes had at least one risk factor; 78% of persons who died had at least four.”
On Sunday, Walensky was asked by Fox News anchor Bret Baier how many of the 800k+ covid deaths in America were “with covid” as opposed to “from covid.” He inquired, “Do you know how many of the 836,000 deaths in the U.S. linked to COVID are from COVID or how many are with COVID but they had other comorbidities? Do you have that breakdown?”
“Yes, of course with Omicron we’re following that very carefully,” Walensky dodged. “Our death registry, of course, takes a few weeks to — and is a — takes a few weeks to collect, and of course, Omicron has just been with us for a few weeks, but those data will be forthcoming.”
This article has been updated to include the context of Walensky’s remarks, which was about deaths in the vaccinated, not the unvaccinated. The study has been added as well.