Over the past 20 months, when it comes to Covid data coming from the Wolf Administration, this has been the scenario:

  • The Wolf Administration hides COVID data.

  • The Wolf Administration makes claims supposedly backed by this hidden data.

  • The Wolf Administration’s claims are debunked when the data is finally released–usually through a Right-to-Know request rather than voluntarily by the administration.

  • By this time, the headlines have been written and most media members have moved on.

We saw it with restaurant data and travel data. Now, for the latest example, look to data on COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths among fully vaccinated Pennsylvanians.

Over the summer, we heard the claim both in Pennsylvania and nationwide that COVID had become a pandemic of the unvaccinated. I started to wonder what the actual PA data said. After all, that claim had to be based on data, right? (Don’t answer that.)

So, on August 27, I submitted a Right-to-Know request to the Department of Health asking for a week-by-week breakdown of COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths by vaccination status since May 1. DOH took its allowed extension and promised a response by October 4.

(Incidentally, several other states, such as Virginia, Wisconsin, Mississippi, and South Carolina, were already providing this information on their websites. But PA was not.)

Two-and-a-half weeks after my RTK request, on September 14, the Wolf administration came out with “data” and announced that “97% of COVID deaths, 95% of hospitalizations and 94% of cases are among unvaccinated Pennsylvanians.” In other words, per the administration, vaccinated Pennsylvanians accounted for only 3% of deaths, 5% of hospitalizations, and 6% of cases.

But this is flat-out not true, and DOH knew this. The statistics the DOH used in its announcement were since January 2021. While the headline was present tense (“ARE among unvaccinated Pennsylvanians”), the data was old.

The statistics the DOH used in its announcement were since January 2021. While the headline was present tense… the data was old.

Why does this matter? Well, back in January, the vaccine wasn’t available to all adults in Pennsylvania. February? Still not available. March? Nope, not available. Not until April 13 were all adults eligible to be vaccinated. 

Now, as all my friends will tell you, I’m no mathematician. But of course the vast majority of cases would be among the unvaccinated if the vaccine wasn’t available to the vast majority of Pennsylvanians.

It wouldn’t surprise me if they ignored this to set the stage for their narrative.  

So, what does the relevant data say?       

From the weeks of April 25 through June 27: 12% of cases, 20% of hospitalizations, and 11% of deaths were among vaccinated people. From the weeks of July 4 through Aug 29 (after the spike caused largely by Delta variant): 30% of cases, 31% of hospitalizations, and 33% of deaths were among vaccinated people. (You can view the spreadsheets DOH provided in response to my RTK request here, here, and here.)

Of course, the administration could reasonably argue that this increase in the share of vaccinated people being affected by COVID is a consequence of the rising proportion of the overall population being vaccinated. Still, there’s no reason to obscure the truth.

READ MORE — Gina Diorio: The COVID-19 data that never existed

Here’s the thing, whatever your stance on vaccines, the Wolf administration could have easily used the current data to make its case for encouraging vaccination.

Why try to present a skewed picture? Why not be transparent?

Those are questions the administration has yet to answer.

Acting Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson said the decision not to release the data was not a policy choice. Instead, she said gathering and analyzing the data was a “huge lift” for the administration. In other words, it was just a lot of work.

Somehow, other states were up to the task.

It shouldn’t have taken a RTK request for the Wolf administration to release this information to the public—and for the public to learn that, once again, the administration’s narrative was not the truth.

Gina Diorio is the Public Affairs Director at Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs, an independent, non-partisan, 501(c)(6) membership organization dedicated to improving the economic environment and educational opportunities in Pennsylvania. www.thecommonwealthpartners.com.

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