White House COVID-19 adviser Anthony Fauci said that hospitals are now overcounting COVID-19 cases in children because they are automatically tested when they are admitted, echoing a narrative that has been repeated by some skeptics for months.
While several news outlets reported that hospitalizations among children with COVID-19 have increased in recent days, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said in a separate interview that most children are not being hospitalized because of the virus. They are instead being hospitalized with separate health issues and are incidentally testing positive, she said.
When asked during an MSNBC interview about the rise in hospitalizations, Fauci said that "quantitatively, you’re having so many more people, including children, who are getting infected."
“Even though hospitalization among children is much, much lower on a percentage basis than hospitalizations for adults, particularly elderly individuals,” Fauci said on Dec. 29, “when you have such a large volume of infections among children, even with a low level of rate of infection, you’re going to still see a lot more children who get hospitalized.”
"If a child goes in the hospital, they automatically get tested for COVID. And they get counted as a COVID-hospitalized individual," Fauci remarked. "When in fact, they may go in for a broken leg or appendicitis or something like that. So it’s overcounting the number of children who are, quote, 'hospitalized with COVID,' as opposed to because of COVID."
Fauci's comment to MSNBC this week marks a significant change in the narrative around COVID-19 cases—as for months, skeptics of government COVID-19 mitigation policies have speculated that overall CCP virus deaths and hospitalizations may be skewed.
Authorities told local Bay Area-based media outlets at the time that they came up with narrower criteria for deaths that were initially attributed to COVID-19. Previously, they had counted people who died while infected with the virus even if it didn't actually contribute to their cause of death.
Fauci and Walensky have also made recent public comments saying data suggests the Omicron variant appears to cause less severe disease and fewer hospitalizations than previous variants. But other public health officials have warned the strain, which has led to record COVID-19 cases, to threaten hospitals.
"We are still at the very beginning of this current surge," Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, told a news conference on Thursday. "January is going to be very, very challenging."