A Texas news outlet on Thursday issued a correction after falsely reporting that thousands of children were hospitalized in the state in a single week with COVID-19.
The Texas Tribune claimed that over 5,800 children were hospitalized during one week in August. The outlet cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in making the claim.
However, the outlet later acknowledged it interpreted the information wrongly.
“That number correctly referred to children hospitalized with COVID-19 since the pandemic began. In actuality, 783 children were admitted to Texas hospitals with COVID-19 between July 1 and Aug. 9 of this year,” the Tribune said.
Its correction said that an earlier version of the story “overstated the number of children who have been hospitalized in Texas recently with COVID-19.”
Before it was corrected, the false claim was spread by Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin.
Steve Krakauer, a media critic, noted that Rubin and some others who spread the claim had not alerted followers to the update.
“How does a mistake this massive, this incomprehensible, happen? Keep in mind, The Texas Tribune has a COVID database that’s actually very useful. It shows there are approximately 10,000 Texans hospitalized with COVID right now in the entire state. And yet a reporter, an editor, multiple national journalists, didn’t stop to consider the 5,800 figure?” Krakauer wrote in his newsletter on Friday.
“There’s only one way this happens—it’s when the truth isn’t the goal of the reporting. No, fear-based reporting, meant to convey panic and with the goal of compliance, is how we end up with such massive data and journalistic errors,” he alleged.
Reese Oxner, the author of the corrected piece, and a Texas Tribune editor did not respond to requests for comment.
The Tribune shared Oxner’s story on social media multiple times but did not alert readers to the correction. Many media ethics experts recommend outlets update readers when corrections are issued, especially major ones.
Oxner did not share his story or news of the correction.
Children are at much lower risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 than adults, especially when contrasted with the most vulnerable groups such as the elderly.
Just 59 deaths from COVID-19 have been recorded in Texas since the start of the pandemic among those 19 years old or younger, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
There has been an increase in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state recently, along with a jump in cases.
Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, earlier this week asked hospitals to delay elective procedures and announced the state was asking out-of-state healthcare workers to come in to help deal with the increase.