Biden Says ‘Pandemic Is Over’
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President Joe Biden said the COVID-19 pandemic is “over” during impromptu remarks on CBS’s 60 Minutes , which aired on Sunday night.
The statement could complicate the current White House strategy to get more funding for coronavirus tests, treatments, and vaccines, though it reflects the view held by many Americans that the urgent threat of the pandemic has waned.
“We still have a problem with COVID,” Biden said. “We’re still doing a lot of work on it … but the pandemic is over.”
He made the off-the-cuff remarks on Wednesday during an interview at the auto show in Detroit, which hadn’t been held since 2019.
“If you notice, no one’s wearing masks,” Biden said, referring to the crowds at the event. “Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so, I think it’s changing. And I think this is a perfect example of it.”
He also commented on the psychological effects of the pandemic.
“I think you’d agree that the impact on the psyche of the American people as a consequence of the pandemic is profound,” he said. “Think of how that has changed everything … people’s attitudes about themselves, their families, about the state of the nation, about the state of their communities.”
Biden’s comments came as a surprise to administration officials, according to two senior health officials who spoke to The Washington Post. Both Republicans and Democrats posted about the comments on social media on Sunday night, with Republicans raising questions about why the administration would renew its ongoing public health emergency if the “pandemic is over.” (The emergency declaration is set to expire next month.)
At the same time, the remarks weren’t completely out of character. For months, Biden administration officials have said that the virus is retreating, and that tests, treatments, and vaccines are readily available, the newspaper reported.
About 62,000 cases are being reported each day, reaching the lowest levels since May, according to the data tracker from The New York Times. Public health officials have noted that the daily averages likely represent a dramatic undercount since most people test themselves at home and don’t report infections to public health officials. About 30,000 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized across the country, and about 450 deaths are being reported each day.
“We have a virus out there that’s still circulating, still killing hundreds of Americans every day,” Ashish Jha, MD, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said during a news briefing earlier this month.
“I think we all, as Americans, have to pull together to try to protect Americans … and do what we can to get our health care system through what might be a difficult fall and winter ahead,” he said.
Last week, World Health Organization officials noted the downward trend in COVID-19 numbers across the world but warned that the pandemic is not over.
“We have never been in a better position to end the pandemic. We are not there yet, but the end is in sight,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, the WHO’s director-general, said during a news briefing.
“We can see the finish line. We’re in a winning position,” he said. “But now is the worst time to stop running. … If we don’t take this opportunity now, we run the risk of more variants, more deaths, more disruption, and more uncertainty.”
CBS News: “60 Minutes,” Sept. 18, 2022.
The Washington Post: “Biden says ‘pandemic is over.'”
The New York Times: “Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count, updated Sept. 19, 2022.”
C-SPAN: “White House COVID-19 Response Team Briefing,” Sept. 6, 2022.
WHO: “WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing,” Sept. 14, 2022.
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