Fact Check: Justice Sotomayor Claims Omicron ‘Just as Deadly for the Unvaccinated’ as Delta

Sonia Sotomayor (Andrew Harnik - Pool / Getty)
Andrew Harnik - Pool / Getty

CLAIM: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that the omicron variant is “just as deadly” as the delta variant.

VERDICT: FALSE. While omicron is highly infectious, deaths and hospitalizations have been less frequent than for delta.

Justice Sotomayor said Friday during oral arguments at the Court about the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates that increased hospitalizations “show that omicron is just as deadly for the unvaccinated” as the delta variant.

Sotomayor objected to the claim by Ohio Solicitor General Benjamin Flowers that the omicron variant represents a different circumstance than the formerly more prominent delta variant, since omicron appears to be less severe, as well as to his argument that existing coronavirus vaccines seem to be less effective in limiting transmission of omicron.

“We have over 100,000 children, which we’ve never had before, in serious condition and many on ventilators,” she said.

White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said just Wednesday that “multiple sources of now-preliminary data indicate a decrease severity with omicron.”

Fauci said during a COVID-19 update with the White House response team that there are increasing amounts of data indicating that omicron is less severe than the delta variant, CNBC reported.

Fauci cited a study from Ontario, Canada, that found the risk of hospitalization or death is 65 percent lower among people infected with omicron compared with those who encountered the Delta variant.

Additionally, the risk of the need for admission to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) with omicron was 83 percent lower.

Citing animal studies as well, Fauci said lung infections with omicron appear to be less severe than with the prior variants.

“It was shown that the virus ofoOmicron proliferates very well in the upper airway and bronchi, but actually very poorly in the lungs,” he said, suggesting it is causing less severe lung infections.

Fauci added that omicron also appears less severe for children when compared with the delta variant.

Similarly, the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) said it is seeing evidence omicron causes “milder symptoms,” not unlike those associated with a common cold.

Express reported Wednesday from the UK:

Omicron remains the most dominant strain of coronavirus in the UK. Despite confirmed cases continuing to rise, mild symptoms are thought to be keeping hospitalisations low across the world, according to new evidence from the World Health Organization (WHO).

“We are seeing more and more studies pointing out that omicron is infecting the upper part of the body, unlike other ones where the lungs would be causing severe pneumonia,” W.H.O. Incident Manager Abdi Mohamud told a group of Geneva-based journalists Tuesday.

While omicron remains highly transmissible, the variant appears to impact the upper respiratory tract rather than the lungs and is showing to be more manageable for those who contract symptoms.

“[T]he somewhat rarer impact of omicron on the lungs is thought to be the cause of less noticeable symptoms,” the report noted.

The case is National Federation of Independent Business v. OSHA, 21A244 in the Supreme Court of the United States.


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