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Justices Sonia Sotomayor And Stephen Breyer Read Obscenely False COVID-19 Misinformation Into Court Record

(Photo by Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Healthcare Reporter
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The liberal justices of the Supreme Court made repeated false claims during oral arguments on the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate Friday.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer in particular made a number of false statements, ranging from claims about the nature of the Omicron variant to basic facts and statistics about the state of the pandemic in the United States.

Sotomayor claimed that there are 100,000 children in the United States were in “serious” condition, and many of them are on ventilators. In fact, the seven-day average of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the United States among all age groups is just under 100,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Since the CDC began tracking the data in August 2020, fewer than 83,000 Americans under age 18 have been admitted to the hospital with COVID-19. Many of those children were not hospitalized because of the virus itself, but were there for other reasons and happened to test positive, as Dr. Anthony Fauci explained last week.

About six percent of children hospitalized for COVID-19 end up on ventilators, according to the CDC. Neither of Sotomayor’s claims, that there are 100,000 children in serious condition with COVID or that many children are on ventilators, have been accurate at any point during the pandemic.

The Obama appointee also said that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is as deadly as the Delta variant. Studies have found that Omicron may be up to 80% less severe than Delta and 70% less likely to put someone in the hospital. Deaths did not spike during South Africa’s Omicron wave to nearly the level of prior waves. (RELATED: With Omicron Dominant, COVID-19 Is Now Less Than ‘Just The Flu’)

Another claim from Sotomayor was that deaths are at an all-time high. The current seven-day average in new COVID-19 deaths in the United States is at 1,245. That’s the same level as late-October, 2021, and almost three times lower than the actual peak of over 3,300 per day in January 2021.

Breyer asserted that there have been as any as 750 million new COVID-19 cases in a single day in the United States recently. He may have misspoken, intending to say 750,000, but the seven-day average is still far below that at about 586,000. (RELATED: Omicron Can Be So Mild, Americans Are Struggling To Distinguish It From A Common Cold)

Breyer went on to add that hospitals have never been as full as they are now.

According to weekly tracking data from Johns Hopkins University, hospitals nationwide are currently at around 78% capacity, with less than one-quarter of those filled with COVID-19 patients.

According to JHU, that is consistent with where capacity has been throughout most of the pandemic, as occupancy has fluctuated between 70% and 80% since winter 2020. The portion of COVID-19 patients taking up hospital capacity also isn’t wildly different than before, with levels currently similar to those during previous waves in fall 2021 and winter 2020.