Image source: BBC
The United States is preparing for a possible outbreak of COVID-19, but President Biden has reassured people that the pandemic is over.
Last weekend, Biden roamed the halls of the Detroit Auto Show for an interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes, gesturing to maskless attendees and telling the nation the worst was over.
“We still have a problem with Covid,” he told correspondent Scott Pelley.
“But the pandemic is not over yet.”
Biden’s words caught the attention of some as his administration launched a campaign two weeks earlier urging people to get vaccinated.
The call for boosters against the latest strains of COVID-19 came at the same time they were getting their annual flu shot.
Meanwhile, health officials recently renewed their efforts to get Congress to spend $ 22.4 billion in efforts to contain Covid.
President Joe Biden’s statement divided sentiment on efforts to curb COVID-19.
Some public health experts shared concern that political motives inspired his statement rather than putting public health first.
Others agree with Biden that the acute phase of the pandemic is over, despite the United States still facing a high burden of disease.
Covid in the United States
On average, more than 400 Americans die from COVID-19. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the number has remained unchanged in more than three months.
According to estimates from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, COVID-19 is the second leading cause of death in the country.
“In a week, that’s Twin Towers, right?” said Gregg Gonsalves, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health.
“It’s a 9/11, week after week after week.”
He added that the high number of deaths and Covid mortality are higher in the US than in other rich countries.
“We’ve had a significant dip in life expectancy,” Gonsalves continued.
“By any appreciable epidemiologic data points, the pandemic is not over.”
Pandemic definition confusion
In the United States, there is still some confusion over the definition of a pandemic.
A pandemic is an epidemic that occurs worldwide and affects a large number of people.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said:
“It’s sort of a term of art. There’s no criteria or some checklist that you make.”
The World Health Organization recognizes that a global health threat is something else – a public health emergency of international concern, or PHEIC.
The United States also recognizes a public health emergency, and COVID-19 is still considered a public health emergency domestically and globally.
The Administration comments
On Monday, an administration official said Biden’s comments marked no change in policy to fight the coronavirus.
They also said there were no plans to lift the public health emergency in place since January 2020.
The US Department of Health and Human Services has pledged to give states 60 days notice before the emergency declaration ends – an action that has yet to be done.
Response to Biden’s statement
Despite the official’s words, Gonsalves expressed dismay at Biden’s assertion that the pandemic was over, especially as winter approached.
“We are terribly under-boosted and under-vaccinated in this country,” he said.
“What kind of message does it send to say ‘the pandemic is over’ when you want anyone to get shots into arms, both primary series and boosters? And you want to probably get some money out of Congress to do it?”
However, a recent Axios/Ipsos poll echoed the US president’s comment, showing that most Americans feel there is little risk in returning to their pre-Covid lives.
The survey revealed that the number of people who resumed their normal activities reached the highest since the start of the pandemic (46%).
“I know the President is taking a lot of criticism,” Adalja chimed in. “I actually agree with him on this.”
“To me, it’s about having the tools to shift infections to the mild side and not seeing any concerns about hospital capacity,” he added.
“And we have not seen hospital capacity concerns in the United States for some time.”