‘My disabled life is worthy’: CDC prompts backlash for comments on Omicron deaths

‘Covid could further disable or kill me, and that is not acceptable’

Gino Spocchia
Tuesday 11 January 2022 15:49 GMT
CDC director says Omicron death rate as ‘encouraging’

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Rochelle Walensky has prompted a backlash from people with disabilities for her remarks on the death rate for Omicron.

Ms Walensky told reporters on Saturday that an “overwhelming” proportion of deaths from the more infectious Covid variant were people with comorbidities.

“The overwhelming number of deaths, over 75 per cent, occurred in people who had at least four comorbidities,” Dr Walensky said in an interview with Good Morning America.

“So really these are people who were unwell to begin with and yes, really encouraging news in the context of Omicron.”

Her remarks were widely considered as ignoring people with disabilities, who remain at risk of falling severely ill from Covid and its Omicron variant.

As was her use of the word “encouraging” disparaged by people with disabilities and analysts alike – many of whom wrote on Twitter with the hashtag “MyDisabledLifeIsWorthy”.

“Saying that people who die of Omicron are ‘unwell already’ implies that they are close to death anyway, or that their ‘unwell’ lives aren’t worth protecting,” said a Twitter user from Arizona.

“Neither are true, CDC Director. It’s devastating that we have to remind you that #MyDisabledLifeIsWorthy.”

Devin Norko, a person with disabilities from Virginia, agreed and wrote: “Folks have pushed the narrative of vulnerable people’s lives being disposable for this entire pandemic (and before)”.

“To see CDC Director finding our deaths ‘encouraging’ because they are less valuable to you all than economical stimulation is so so appalling”.

“I’m immunocompromised. I take immunosuppressive drugs for my autoimmune disease. I can no longer do things I used to,” another disabled person wrote on Twitter.

”Even double vaxxed and boosted, Covid could further disable or kill me, and that is *not* acceptable for me or anyone else.”

Stand-up comic Walter Kamau Bell also tweeted with the “MyDisabledLifeIsWorthy” hashtag on Sunday and said: “I can let my family know that if I die from COVID it is ‘encouraging’”.

The CDC, which has also been condemned for reducing the required isolation time for Americans from seven to five days, released findings of a study on Thursday that found severe outcomes from Omicron were “rare”.

Existing illnesses were present in every vaccinated person in the study who was taken into intensive care.

More than 830,000 Americans have died of Covid since the pandemic began, and CDC data suggests 62.5 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated.

Another 36 per cent are boosted.

Jason McDonald, spokesperson for Dr Walensky, told The Independent that the CDC director “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.”

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