Jake Tapper Rails Against 'Misleading' CDC COVID Hospitalization Numbers

CNN anchor Jake Tapper has criticized as "misleading" the admission by the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that it counted COVID patients who had been admitted to hospital for something else.

Tapper was reacting to comments CDC director Rochelle Walensky made on Fox News on Sunday that "up to 40 percent" of patients had been admitted to hospitals with another medical emergency but had been later detected as having COVID.

When asked by Fox News anchor Bret Baier if there was a breakdown of how many of the 836,000 deaths in the U.S. were "from COVID" or "with COVID," Walensky gave a non-committal answer in which she said "our death registry…takes a few weeks to collect," and that "those data will be forthcoming."

During a segment on Monday with CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Tapper took issue with the way COVID cases are being counted even if he accepted that "hospitals are still stretched thin" due to the pandemic.

Tapper said if up to 40 percent of patients in hospital "don't necessarily have problematic COVID" and are there if "they bumped their head, and they're being included as [being] in the hospital with COVID. That number seems kind of misleading."

Gupta responded "it surprises me that they have not been able to parse out that data more carefully," as he said CNN had been tracking data from New York State which Walensky had been referring to.

"There needs to be transparency about that in terms of 'for' or 'with' COVID," said Gupta, who added that whatever the reason for admission, a COVID diagnosis demanded the use of more hospital resources.

New York State "is one of the few states that's presenting it [COVID data] that way, for or with COVID. But other states should follow suit," Gupta added.

Tapper said: "We're two years into this and we need the clearest picture possible if somebody is in the hospital with a broken leg and they also have asymptomatic COVID. That should not be counted as hospitalized with COVID, clearly."

Video of the exchange, which has been widely shared with 1.2 million views as of Tuesday morning, sparked a lively social media response, especially among conservative voices.

Conservative talk show host Clay Travis tweeted: "Anyone who has bothered to look at the data has, of course, known this for two years. "

Media Research Center TV managing editor Brittany Hughes tweeted: "Imagine it taking you two years to figure this out."

Conservative strategist Greg Price said many have "turned on a dime" and "acknowledged the things 'conspiracy theorists' have been saying for two years were true."

In sharing the clip, journalist Glenn Greenwald said it "is absolutely right" that Tapper's description of counting all those in hospital with COVID as being there for COVID "is wildly misleading," adding "It's so striking how many arguments that were long taboo are now all being aired."

The Washington Post noted that Walensky's latest comments, which have been leapt on by figures on the right to argue against COVID mitigation measures, come as she sought media consultant advice on how to present a consistent message on the pandemic.

Walensky had previously faced criticism for telling ABC News it was "really encouraging" that 75 percent of vaccinated people who were dying from coronavirus had four or more comorbidities.

Some Twitter users said the comments were disrespectful toward disabled or chronically ill people. In response, Walensky later tweeted "We must protect people with comorbidities from severe #COVID19."

Newsweek has contacted the CDC for comment.

Patient with covid
A medical worker tends to a patient who has Covid-19 at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Massachusetts on January 4, 2022. CNN's Jake Tapper has criticized federal statistics on COVID as "misleading." Joseph Prezioso/Getty