Fact Check: Over 100,000 Children Are NOT In Serious Condition From COVID-19 As Supreme Court Justice Said

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne
Fact Check: Over 100,000 Children Are NOT In Serious Condition From COVID-19 As Supreme Court Justice Said Fact Check: Over 100,000 Children Are NOT In Serious Condition From COVID-19 As Supreme Court Justice Said Inflated #s

Are over 100,000 children in serious condition because of COVID-19? No, that's not true: Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor overstated the pandemic's toll on children 17 and under during Supreme Court oral arguments on January 7, 2022. As of that date, fewer than 85,000 people ages 0 to 17 had been admitted to the hospital during the whole pandemic because of the virus -- from August 2020 through early January 2022, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's COVID Data Tracker. Severe illness due to COVID-19 is uncommon among children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said in a report dated December 30, 2021.

The claim appeared in a video (archived here) where it was published by NowThis News on January 7, 2022, under the title "Supreme Court Oral Arguments on President Biden's Workplace Vaccine Mandate I LIVE." The video description said:

The Supreme Court will convene for oral arguments on President Joe Biden's COVID-19 vaccine and testing mandates for health care workers and large employers with at least 100 workers.

Click below to watch the video on YouTube:

Sotomayor's comments came during oral arguments challenging the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers with 100 or more employees. During those arguments, she said:

We have over 100,000 children, which we've never had before, in serious condition, and many on ventilators (due to coronavirus).

This is what the CDC's COVID Data Tracker looked like for that age group (0-17) from August 1, 2020, through January 7, 2022:

CDC screenshot.png

(Source: CDC website screenshot taken on Mon Jan 10 16:47:23 2022 UTC)

New hospital admissions have been spiking since the beginning of December 2021, just a few weeks after the omicron variant was identified in South Africa. Still, Sotomayor's numbers were a gross overstatement of what was taking place in American hospitals around that time, according to HealthData.gov, which updates its numbers daily. On January 10, 2022, confirmed or suspected COVID hospitalizations in children totaled 4,661, according to individual state numbers from HealthData.gov Lead Stories compiled. The daily number was less than 5% of the figure cited by the Supreme Court justice.

Speaking with "Fox News Sunday," on January 9, 2022, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said there were fewer than 3,500 children in hospitals with COVID-19 at the time, acknowledging the exaggerated numbers:

Yeah, but, you know, here's what I can tell you about our pediatric hospitalizations now. First of all, the vast majority of children who are in the hospital are unvaccinated, and for those children who are not eligible for vaccination, we do know they are most likely to get sick with COVID if their family members aren't vaccinated.

However, COVID cases among children in the United States are skyrocketing, according to the AAP. In a December 30, 2021, report, the organization said pediatric numbers have never been higher:

COVID-19 cases among US children have reached the highest case count ever reported since the start of the pandemic. For the week ending December 30th, over 325,000 child COVID-19 cases were reported. This number is a 64% increase over the 199,000 added cases reported the week ending December 23rd and an almost doubling of case counts from the two weeks prior.

Nearly 7.9 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic, representing over 1 in 10 US children. For the 21st week in a row child COVID-19 cases are above 100,000. Since the first week of September, there have been over 2.8 million additional child cases. ...

At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is uncommon among children. However, there is an urgent need to collect more data to assess the severity of illness related to new variants as well as the longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.

The CDC recommends everyone 5 years and older be fully vaccinated for COVID-19. The Mayo Clinic website shows the vaccination rate by age group in the United States:

vax rates.png

(Source: Mayo Clinic website screenshot taken on Mon Jan 10 18:32:59 2022 UTC)

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a writer and fact-checker at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

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