President Biden leveled an extraordinary charge against Facebook and other social media platforms on Friday, claiming they are "killing people" by allowing coronavirus misinformation to spread. The accusation comes as health officials are voicing concern over rising cases of the virus and stalling vaccination rates.
"They're killing people. I mean it, really. Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated and they're killing people," Mr. Biden told reporters, echoing comments made by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky earlier on Friday. During a briefing by the White House coronavirus response team, Walensky reported 36% increase in hospitalizations and 26% increase in deaths due to COVID-19 in the past week.
"We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk, and communities that are fully-vaccinated are generally faring well," Walensky said. "Our biggest concern is that we are going to continue to see preventable cases, hospitalizations, and sadly, deaths, among the unvaccinated."
Facebook pushed back against Mr. Biden's comments, saying it is "helping save lives" by doing everything it can to to combat COVID misinformation.
Officials are warning that the pandemic has reached a very dangerous stage, just weeks after the president declared independence from the virus. New cases are rising in all 50 states for the first time since January. Nationwide, the rate of average daily cases has more than doubled in the last two weeks, with new cases highest in states where less than half the people are fully vaccinated: Arkansas, Florida, Missouri and Nevada.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, blamed the Delta variant.
"99.5% of all the deaths to COVID are in unvaccinated people. That's a very, very striking statistic that should get people to appreciate why it's so important to get vaccinated," he told CBS News.
In Los Angeles County, new cases have more than doubled in the last week. That's what's driving, which begins Saturday regardless of vaccination status. It's an order that some say may have unintended consequences.
"The mixed messaging of saying that you have to mask when you're vaccinated will tell the unvaccinated, oh, actually, the vaccines don't work," said Dr. Monica Gandhi, University of California-San Francisco.
Fauci said he's not concerned that the mask mandate will erode trust in the vaccine's efficacy.
"There are situations where one might want to go the extra mile to get the extra degree of protection," he said.
Health officials have said the vaccines receiving full approval from the Food and Drug Administration could boost confidence. Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said Friday that approval could come within the next couple of months.
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