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Comorbidities At A Glance:

  • Walensky reports on CDC’s weekly MMWR revealing that 78% of people analyzed with serious COVID conditions are those with 4 or more comorbidities.
  • Critics attack Walensky for discrimination of chronically ill and disabled.
  • In many hospitals, 40% of those with COVID have come in for other reasons.

Last Friday, the CDC’s Rochelle Walensky shed light on data many have been arguing for nearly two years. In the wake of the omicron virus, pushes for boosters and other mitigation strategies, and Supreme Court hearings on the Biden mandates for employees, the news is encouraging. Walensky referred to the CDC’s Morbitity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) dated January 7, 2022. The MMWR stated:

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.1

This data covers the first 10 months of data available following the vaccine rollout.

Criticism, Comorbidities, and Context

In the interview, Walensky stated:

“…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,” she added.

While Walensky was stating the facts reflected in data, critics rose to the opportunity taking offense for those with comorbidities, chronic illness, the elderly, and disabled.

On Saturday, one critic took to Twitter to respond:

Contrary to popular belief, @CDCDirector, disabled people aren’t just data points. Every life lost was loved by someone, someone’s community member, someone’s friend.

How callous to say you’re encouraged by the prospect of their deaths.


On Sunday, another critic responded:

What we’re not going to do is accept empty talking points that devalue the lives of the disabled & chronically ill.3

Matthew Cortland, JD, a lawyer who has chronic illness also tweeted his criticism to the interview:

Will the @JoeBiden @WhiteHouse let these eugenicist remarks by @CDCDirector stand? Will @POTUS demand an apology and retraction? Or does President Biden agree that it’s “encouraging” that chronically ill & disabled Americans are dying?4

A CDC spokesperson provided some insight in a statement to FOX:

“Dr. Walensky did not intend comments in a recent television appearance to be hurtful toward those with disabilities. She is deeply concerned and cares about the health and well-being of people with disabilities and those with medical conditions who have been impacted by COVID-19.  The CDC director continues her commitment to protect all Americans in this next stage of the pandemic,” he said.5

Walensky’s response on Twitter also refocused her statements in the context of her concern for those with comorbidities, not discrimination:

We must protect people with comorbidities from severe #COVID19. I went into medicine – HIV specifically – and public health to protect our most at-risk. CDC is taking steps to protect those at highest risk, incl. those w/ chronic health conditions, disabilities & older adults.6

What Are Comorbidities?

Comorbidities are two or more diseases or chronic illnesses or conditions at the same time. One may not be a result of the other, but both will certainly affect health. These health concerns are not benign concerns, rather they have life altering impacts. According to WebMD, common comorbid conditions include:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Respiratory disease
  • Mental health issues like dementia
  • Cerebrovascular disease
  • Joint disease
  • Diabetes
  • Sensory impairment
  • Arthritis

Comorbidities both affect the health of a person, as well as the treatment options best suited for the issues. Many of the above comorbidities are serious health concerns on their own, when combined with one or more, and in the case of the over 75% of people Walensky was referencing, three conditions, health is undoubtedly compromised with grave concerns. WebMD continues with:

In fact, if you have comorbidities, you’re at risk for bad health outcomes that may have nothing to do with your main concern.

This includes:

  • Functional limitations
  • Disability
  • Frailty
  • Nursing home placement
  • Lessened quality of life
  • Treatment complications
  • Emergency department visits
  • Adverse drug reactions
  • Avoidable hospitalizations
  • Death

Due to COVID or With COVID?

Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, one big question has been how many of the hospitalizations or deaths are a direct result of COVID and how many hospitalizations and deaths are due to other causes, however the patient seeking care tests positive? On FOX News Sunday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky was once again asked the question as to how many people are in the hospital for COVID and how many are there with COVID. Walensky responded:

What we are seeing with the Omicron variant is that it tends to be milder person by person, but given how large the numbers are that we’re seeing more and more cases come into the hospital.

In some hospitals that we’ve talked to, up to 40 percent of the patients who are coming in with COVID-19 are coming in not because they’re sick with COVID, but because they’re coming in with something else and have had to — COVID or the omicron variant detected.

The CDC has a table compiled a table reflecting COVID deaths with contributing conditions. The description of the table states:

For over 5% of these deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned on the death certificate. For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 4.0 additional conditions or causes per death.7


Hold the Phone — Doc’s Thoughts:

Why are these people upset? She isn’t celebrating that people with comorbidities are dying. That’s pretty callous to accuse her of that! She’s simply stating that maybe we don’t have to create such a panic. We have a more specific, high-risk group of people we can focus on supporting. When we know how to focus our resources, isn’t that just wise? Isn’t this good news?

We’ve been talking about this since the beginning. In fact, restoring health and supporting these unique health conditions that would be considered comorbidities is what we do at The Wellness Way. According to the CDC, 6 in 10 Americans have a chronic disease, 4 in 10 have two or more. This is what we are talking about. Why is no one raising concerns over this? Why are people offended that the CDC has finally recognized the group that needs support and health restoration to protect them from COVID 19?

No one would disagree that we need to take care of our most vulnerable populations. That’s simply the right, humane thing to do. The challenge is when we don’t treat these people with their specific health needs in mind. Not everyone needs the same treatment; not everyone is at the same risk factor, nor would they benefit from the same mitigation strategies.

Reports of inflated numbers of COVID deaths have been circulating since the beginning of the pandemic.  Now that it’s obvious the goals of the current administration to stop the pandemic are not going to be realized anytime soon, the story has to change. When you are looking at hospitalizations or death counts, be sure to look into the factors that contribute to them, not just whether or not they also happened to have COVID at the time which may or may not have contributed.

Did you see Walensky’s comment in regard to 40% of the people in the hospital listed with COVID are there for other reasons. They just also happen to test for COVID, how many of those are mild cases that likely aren’t having a larger impact or need medical attention?

The CDC’s table listing deaths affirms that roughly 5% of the deaths are associated with COVID, however they are also associated with other contributing factors and comorbidities. Again, are those deaths being recorded with COVID or due to COVID?

When we look at the real accounts of hospitalizations and deaths, we can put some of these unconstitutional mandates and fearmongering into perspective. When people know the real risk, they can truly make an informed decision on how to take care of their unique and individual health. When those risks are skewed, and information is withheld, the dignity of people is attacked as much as the perceived attack by Walensky on the chronically ill outlined above.

We should all be encouraged knowing that these chronic illnesses and comorbidities can often be corrected with the proper testing and care. I think that is the true spirit of what Walensky was saying. Not that these people are dying. That we have identified the people we need to support, and that many of these conditions are due to lifestyle and are able to be supported and corrected. That while there are too many people who struggle with these conditions, not every single person as at high-risk.

If you are concerned about a chronic health concern or your body’s ability to mount an appropriate immune response, reach out to a Wellness Way Clinic to begin your health journey and restore health. You don’t have to live with chronic illness and the decrease in quality of life and the risks multiple comorbidities bring.

1CDC: MMWR January 7, 2021

2Twitter: Imani Barbarin

3Twitter: Ayanna Pressley

4Twitter: Matthew Cortland

5FOX News: CDC director’s ABC News interview remarks about COVID-19 victims with ‘comorbidities’ spark confusion

6Twitter: Rochelle Walensky

7CDC: Weekly Updates by Select Demographic and Geographic Characteristics


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