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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher January 7, 2022

Sen. Rand Paul’s ad was wrong claiming there are no omicron hospitalizations; he took the ad down

If Your Time is short

  • Paul claimed in an ad that sought contributions for his re-election campaign that there have been no hospitalizations for people with the omicron variant of COVID-19.

  • Two studies published before the ad began running cited hundreds of omicron hospitalizations.

  • Paul’s campaign took the ad down.

Since omicron was detected in late November, early indications have been that it results in milder illness than other variants of COVID-19.

But not even one hospitalization?

That was the claim from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in an ad that solicited contributions for his 2022 reelection campaign.

"The COVID hysteria has already gone on too long and these power-hungry bureaucrats don’t want to let go," Paul said in a 50-second video ad on Facebook that started running Jan. 4, the day he filed to run for a third term. "That’s probably why we’re hearing a lot about this new scary omicron variant.

@politifact Sen. Rand Paul’s ad claiming there are no omicron hospitalizations was wrong. #LearnOnTikTok #omicron #covid19 ♬ feeling - Official Sound Studio

"But let’s be clear. The omicron variant in South Africa, and now California and across the United States, is reported as an illness with mild symptoms. We hope that will play out over the next few weeks as we learn more. But so far, no one has been hospitalized for it. That’s good news."

Are you less likely to need hospitalization if you’re infected with omicron? Yes, those are the early indications, especially if you're vaccinated or have immunity from a previous coronavirus infection.

But zero hospitalizations from omicron? Far from it.

Omicron’s emergence, and surge

Omicron was first identified by researchers in South Africa, who reported it to the World Health Organization on Nov. 24. The World Health Organization designated it as a variant of concern two days later. It has spread to at least 110 countries. 

The first U.S. case was confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Dec. 1, days after a Californian returned home from South Africa. 

On Jan. 4, the CDC estimated that 95.4% of the COVID-19 cases in the United States in the week ending Jan. 1 were the omicron variant and just 4.6% from the delta variant. A month earlier, Omicron’s share was just 0.6%.

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Hospitalizations continuing with omicron

While there is not comprehensive data on omicron hospitalizations, it’s simply not the case that there have been none.

The World Health Organization told PolitiFact it does not have data on COVID-19 infections that are broken down by variant. While early data from South Africa, the United Kingdom and Denmark suggest a reduced risk of hospitalization for omicron compared to delta, increased transmission due to omicron is expected to lead to more hospitalizations, the organization said. 

"It is still unclear to what extent the observed reduction in risk of hospitalization can be attributed to immunity from previous infections or vaccination and to what extent omicron may be less virulent," the organization said in an email.

Omicron hospitalizations were reported before the ad went live.

  • A study published Jan. 1 found that — of 1,313 symptomatic COVID-19 patients, including 862 omicron patients as of Dec. 20 in the Houston Methodist healthcare system — 15% of omicron patients were hospitalized, compared with 43% of delta variant patients and 55% of alpha patients. 

  • People who contracted the omicron variant were about half as likely to need hospital care as those infected with delta, according to a report issued Dec. 31 by the UK Health Security Agency. The study included 815 people with omicron who were admitted to hospitals or transferred from emergency departments.

Paul’s response

We reached out Jan. 6 to Paul’s campaign. Deputy campaign manager Jake Cox replied the same day, saying that when the script for the ad was written, there were no confirmed hospitalizations, and that the ad is no longer running. 

Facebook says the ad stopped running Jan. 6.

Paul ran for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. His leading challenger for reelection is former Kentucky state lawmaker Charles Booker, who narrowly lost the Democratic nomination for Kentucky’s other U.S. Senate seat in 2020. 

Our ruling

In a campaign fund-raising ad for his reelection, Paul stated: "No one has been hospitalized for" the omicron variant of COVID-19.

Studies published before the ad began running on Facebook documented hundreds of omicron hospitalizations. Paul took the ad down.

We rate the claim False.

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Tom Kertscher

Sen. Rand Paul’s ad was wrong claiming there are no omicron hospitalizations; he took the ad down

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