White House slams Washington Post and New York Times for ‘irresponsible’ tweets about CDC study


Ben Wakana, the White House Deputy Director of Strategic Communications & Engagement who also serves on the COVID-19 Rapid Response Team, ripped the outlets

A White House official has slammed the Washington Post and The New York Times for ‘completely irresponsible’ and ‘unreal’ tweets about a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study on vaccines and COVID transmission.

The CDC published a new study on Friday analyzing coronavirus infection data in Massachusetts – which concluded that 75% of people infected by the Delta variant had been fully vaccinated.

The Washington Post and The New York Times reportedly obtained internal memos from the CDC, which in part cited that Provincetown study, warning that the Delta variant spreads as easily as the chicken pox.

Ben Wakana, the White House Deputy Director of Strategic Communications & Engagement who also serves on the COVID-19 Rapid Response Team, ripped the outlets for reporting on the study without providing context.

It has been seen as a rare condemnation from the White House against the prestigious news outlets – and the sharpest criticism against them since President Joe Biden took office. 

Wakana's criticism has been seen as a rare condemnation from the White House against the prestigious news outlets - and the sharpest criticism against them since Joe Biden took office

Wakana’s criticism has been seen as a rare condemnation from the White House against the prestigious news outlets – and the sharpest criticism against them since Joe Biden took office

The Washington Post had tweeted on Friday: ‘Vaccinated people made up three-quarters of those infected in a massive Massachusetts covid-19 outbreak, pivotal CDC study finds.’

Wakana immediately ripped into the tweet, calling it ‘completely irresponsible.’

‘Three days ago the CDC made clear that vaccinated individuals represent a VERY SMALL amount of transmission occurring around the country,’ Wakana tweeted.

‘Virtually all hospitalizations and deaths continue to be among the unvaccinated. Unreal to not put that in context.’

Meanwhile, The New York Times tweeted a link to their own article, citing the same memo as Washington Post.

The New York Times tweeted: ‘Breaking News: The Delta variant is as contagious as chickenpox and may be spread by vaccinated people as easily as the unvaccinated, an internal C.D.C. report said.’

Wakana then ripped into the Gray Lady in all-caps: ‘VACCINATED PEOPLE DO NOT TRANSMIT THE VIRUS AT THE SAME RATE AS UNVACCINATED PEOPLE AND IF YOU FAIL TO INCLUDE THAT CONTEXT YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.’

He later tweeted: ‘Let’s be clear. If 10 vaccinated people walk into a room full of COVID, about 9 of them would walk out of the room WITH NO COVID. Nine of them.’ 

The CDC has noted that all authorized vaccines have shown 65% to 95% efficacy in preventing symptomatic, laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 – and more than 89% effectiveness against the coronavirus severe enough to require hospitalization. 

A chart from the CDC study shows new cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts even among those who are vaccinated

A chart from the CDC study shows new cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts even among those who are vaccinated 

Pedestrians reflected in a store window walk down Commercial Street in Provincetown

Pedestrians reflected in a store window walk down Commercial Street in Provincetown

Bartender Denis Angelov pours drinks at Tin Pan Alley restaurant in Provincetown in April

Bartender Denis Angelov pours drinks at Tin Pan Alley restaurant in Provincetown in April

While some breakthrough cases are possible, the CDC has said that vaccines substantially reduce the spread of COVID-19 – even against the Delta variant.

The new study focused on an outbreak in the Cape Cod town of Provincetown, heavy tourist hotspot in Barnstable County, after the the July 4 weekend. 

It found 469 cases of COVID-19 associated with multiple summer events and large public gatherings – even though 69% of Massachusetts residents were vaccinated. 

Researchers said that 346 cases – or 74% – occurred in fully vaccinated people. Scientists did DNA sequencing on 133 of those patients and found that 119 of them, or 89%, had the Delta variant.

The study found that 79% of vaccinated patients with breakthrough infection were symptomatic. There were five COVID-19 patients who were hospitalized, four of whom were fully vaccinated – though no deaths were reported. 

Researchers found that the Delta variant is ‘highly transmissible’ but that ‘vaccination is the most important strategy to prevent severe illness and death.’

The study found that viral loads, which indicate the likelihood that someone could transmit the virus to others, were similar among 127 fully vaccinated people and 84 people who were unvaccinated or partially vaccinated. 

The new study came after the CDC recommended on Tuesday that even those who are fully vaccinated should wear masks in indoor public settings in areas where COVID-19 transmission is high or substantial.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky called the ‘pivotal discovery’ on viral loads ‘concerning’ in a statement issued on Friday.

‘High viral loads suggest an increased risk of transmission and raised concern that, unlike with other variants, vaccinated people infected with Delta can transmit the virus,’ she said.

‘This finding is concerning and was a pivotal discovery leading to CDC’s updated mask recommendation. The masking recommendation was updated to ensure the vaccinated public would not unknowingly transmit virus to others, including their unvaccinated or immunocompromised loved ones.’ 



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