A spokesman for the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response team bashed both the New York Times and the Washington Post Friday for alarmist tweets about the data that led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend the re-imposition of mask mandates in much of the US.
Ben Wakana, the deputy director of strategic communications and engagement for the White House unit, initially directed his ire at the Washington Post over their headline about a study of a COVID-19 outbreak among hundreds of people — most of them fully vaccinated — in Provincetown, Mass. over the July 4 holiday.
“Vaccinated people made up three-quarters of those infected in a massive Massachusetts covid-19 outbreak, pivotal CDC study finds,” read the Post tweet.
“Completely irresponsible,” Wakana tweeted in response, adding: “3 days ago the CDC made clear that vaccinated individuals represent a VERY SMALL amount of transmission occurring around the country.
“Virtually all hospitalizations and deaths continue to be among the unvaccinated,” Wakana added. “Unreal to not put that in context.”
Minutes later, Wakana turned his ire on a New York Times tweet from Thursday night, when the CDC data was initially leaked prior to its wider release Friday.
“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,” the paper tweeted.
That sent Wakana into an all-caps frenzy.
“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 tweeted.
Critics have accused the White House and the CDC of undermining the message that COVID-19 vaccines are extraordinarily effective by recommending indoor mask-wearing in places where coronavirus transmission is considered “substantial” or “high” regardless of vaccination status.
Wakana tried to emphasize that the inoculations are effective in a third tweet Friday.
“Let’s be clear,” he wrote. “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.”
A few minutes before Wakana sent his third tweet, President Biden told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House could “in all probability” expect to face more restrictions as the number of cases continues to rise.
Nearly three-quarters of all US counties were experiencing “substantial” or “high” levels of transmission as of Friday, according to the CDC. Meanwhile, the agency said that more than 190 million Americans aged 12 and older had received at least one vaccine dose, with 164.2 million considered fully vaccinated.