Apoorva Mandavilli became the New York Times’ chief Covid reporter after a woke mob at the paper forced out experienced science correspondent Donald McNeil in early 2021 because of ridiculous accusations of racism while chaperoning students in Peru.
Because why not throw out a veteran science reporter during a pandemic? (A cynic would say “because he was optimistic about the vaccine rollout in October 2020.”)
Mandavilli’s reporting has been characterized by exaggeration of the dangers Covid presents. In particular her numerical mistakes tilt in the same direction, each grossly exaggerating the danger and death risk that children face from Covid. The latest massive error occurred in a story about the Centers for Disease Control recommending vaccine boosters (yes, boosters) for children 5-11.
Posted online Thursday, it eventually appeared, with a correction, in Friday’s print edition: “C.D.C. Advisers Recommend Pfizer Boosters for Children 5 to 11.”
But record numbers of children were hospitalized during the Omicron surge this winter. Nearly 4,000 children aged 5 to 11 have been diagnosed with a Covid-related condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome during the pandemic. And some studies find that even children who have a mild illness may experience symptoms for months.
That paragraph is exaggerated enough, but the original falsely claimed that 4,000 children “aged 5 to 11 have died from” the condition (known as MIS-C). The actual figure, for all children, is 68. Overall COVID deaths for Americans aged 0-18 is currently about 1,200.
After Twitter outcry, the passage was corrected online. The story appeared with a correction in Friday’s edition that was less brusque than Mandavilli’s reaction to her error on Twitter: “… Diagnosed with, not died. It was fixed”
Mandavilli also made a similar gross numerical mistake involving children and covid, a mistake that was also in the alarmist direction, in October 2021, as NewsBusters reported under the headline: “NYT Forced to Fix Claim 900,000 Kids Have Been Hospitalized with COVID.” The real number was 63,000.
Side note: Where are the editors when these blazing mathematical errors cross their desks?
Critics have come down on Mandavilli’s often bizarre Covid stances. In May 2021 she tweeted that even investigating the possibility the Wuhan coronavirus did not originate at a “wet market” but escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology was racist: “Someday we will stop talking about the lab leak theory and maybe even admit its racist roots. But alas, that day is not yet here.” (The tweet was later deleted.)
In August 2021, she wrote a news story that favored avoiding friends and wear masks in perpetuity, rather than getting a vaccine booster shot.