With more than 27,000 people still hospitalized with COVID-19 on any given day across the country, and more than 500 of them dead and frozen, President Joe Biden delivered a surprising assessment of the state of the pandemic. translate on Sunday night.
‘The pandemic is over,’ Biden said in an interview on CBS’ 60 minutes. “We are still having problems with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over.”
A statement with a degree of public impact will usually be published in an official address, like a statement made from the Oval Office — or, at least, not a one-sided comment in an argument during a tour of an auto show. But even if Biden’s announcement that the pandemic is over isn’t so routine, many public health experts and pandemic authorities worry that Biden’s assertion is completely contrary to what he said. contrary to what the country needs to hear right now.
“The pandemic is far from over, and the president is inviting the public to move on,” said Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at the Georgetown Law Center. deeply concerned that Biden’s remarks will convince the American public that “reasonable precautions” no longer need to be taken.
“The president has gone too far and he should try to back out,” Gostin said. “He was going to convey that the risk from COVID is not as great as it was a year ago, and that is a logical point. But that is far from saying the COVID-19 pandemic is over.”
David O’Connor, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Wisconsin, told The Daily Beast: “There’s so much uncertainty about what happens next. “Will future variants run faster than existing vaccines and treatments? The impact of COVID lasts years, and possibly decades, from now? What other challenges we cannot foresee over the next three years will COVID-19 challenge us collectively in 2025, 2030, 2040 and beyond? “
Health authorities told The Daily Beast the issue has more to do with Biden’s political crimes than it does about Biden’s ability to undermine public resolve amid the public health crisis. copper is going on.
“That comment to me, that would be killer. People are not going to get vaccinated,” said Oved Amitay, CEO of The Solve ME/CFS Initiative, which focuses on post-infectious diseases, including persistent Covid.
Amitay doesn’t think Biden’s comment was made purely for political gain, but was instead motivated by a broader shift in public sentiment around Covid. As Biden noted in 60 minutes Interviewed while walking through a car show full of patrons not wearing masks, life in the US has slowly drifted back to some of the pre-pandemic normal. There are fewer masks, workplaces and schools are reopening, and vaccines are widely available.
But those who are elderly, sick, immunocompromised or have been plagued by Covid for a long time say the rhetoric leaves them behind.
“For them, the pandemic is not over yet,” Amitay said.
As of March 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of more than one million Americans. But with the release of tens of millions of doses of the vaccine and then a return to a semi-normal state, the Biden administration has shown in recent months that it is hoping to put the country in a different position in the fight. against viruses. Health officials have already begun shifting responsibility for distributing the vaccine to private providers as the first booster shots dedicated to the variants reach pharmacies and the emergency declaration goes into effect. Nearly three years of power will expire next month.
But even despite those encouraging signs, the White House has publicly asserted that the coming winter could pose a risk if basic protective measures are not taken.
Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 coordinator, told reporters earlier this month: “We have a virus that is still circulating, killing hundreds of Americans every day. “We all, as Americans, must rally together to try to protect Americans and do what we can to get our health care system through what could be a season. difficult autumn and winter ahead”.
That job becomes much more difficult, says O’Connor, when the president echoes past administrations’ overly optimistic statements about the state of public health crisis, stretching back to the Reagan administration.
“I recall the assertion by then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Margaret Heckler that we would have an HIV vaccine for testing within about two years of discovery,” O’Connor said. out virus. “Viruses are cunning, and we shouldn’t overestimate our own ability to control them and use ingenuity to bring ‘end’ to the pandemic.”
Diana Berrent, founder of the Covid Survivor Corps advocacy group, said she understands the assessment that the pandemic is elsewhere, but disagrees with any assertions that it is “over”.
“Biden’s announcement that the pandemic was over too soon… It reminded me of George Bush standing on an aircraft carrier beneath a ‘Mission Accomplished’ sign,” Berrent said, referring to the year’s image. 2003 by former President George Bush declared war. operations ended in Iraq.
Daydreaming, in the service of the inevitable certainty of midterm elections, is not the basis for sound public health policy, she added.
Biden’s comments notably come just weeks before the midterm elections, given the Democratic Party’s control of Congress. If the pandemic were to end, as Biden suggested, a declaration of victory would allow Democrats to ‘credit for victory over the global virus that has ravaged America’s public health for nearly three years.
But the political benefits of the “Victory over COVID” claim could undermine the public health campaign Biden himself is trying to bolster, said John P. Moore, professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medicine of Cornell University, said.
“If the pandemic is really over, then why are health officials insisting on the current ramping up campaign?” Moore told The Daily Beast, adding that he suggested that Biden’s comments were motivated by the fact that many Americans were behaving as if the pandemic was over — and whether the pandemic really was over. is another problem.
“Whether the pandemic will REALLY end will depend on how the winter months play out,” says Moore. “Will the increase in infections start again in late November and into the winter months, like in 2020 and 2021? Only time will tell.”
From a very technical epidemiological point of view, the president may not be entirely unfounded, said Dr. David Freedman, professor emeritus of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama.
“A widespread disease with a stable population of infected individuals is not a pandemic,” says Freedman. “Pandemic is when the growth of disease is exponential.”
However, Freedman noted, there’s no specific definition of when the pandemic “ends” — at best, making Biden’s specific claims wobbly.
“I’m not sure any agency like the WHO would say, ‘today is the day it ends,’” Freedman said.
On the Hill, some of Biden’s Democratic allies were simply scratching their heads. Senator Dick Durban (D-IL), the top Democrat in the Senate, told CNN on Monday, “We all hope it ends – no one can predict for sure what it will be. so. I do not.”
However, the senator considered if there could be more to Biden’s statement.
“He probably knows more than I do,” Durbin said.