Image source: BBC
The United States is bracing for a potential COVID-19 outbreak, but President Biden has reassured people that the pandemic is over.
Last weekend, Biden wandered the halls of the Detroit Auto Show for an interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes, pointing to the unmasked attendees and telling the nation that the worst was over.
“We still have a problem with Covid,” he told correspondent Scott Pelley.
“But the pandemic is not over.”
His words caught the attention of some when his administration launched a campaign two weeks earlier to urge people to get vaccinated.
The call for boosters against the latest strains of COVID-19 came at the same time they received the annual flu shot.
Meanwhile, health officials recently renewed their efforts to get Congress to spend $22.4 billion to contain Covid.
President Joe Biden’s statement shared the sentiment regarding efforts to contain COVID-19.
Some public health experts feared that political motives were driving his testimony rather than putting public health at the forefront.
Others agree with Biden that the acute phase of the pandemic is over, although the United States still faces a heavy disease burden.
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 by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, 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 9/11, week after week after week.”
He added that the high number of deaths and mortality from Covid is higher in the United States 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.”
Confusion over the definition of pandemic
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, a government official said Biden’s comments did not mark a change in policy in the fight against the coronavirus.
They also said there were no plans to lift the health emergency as of January 2020.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has promised to give states 60 days’ notice before the emergency declaration expires, a move that has yet to be made.
Reaction to Biden’s statement
Despite the official’s words, Gonsalves expressed his dismay at Biden’s claim that the pandemic was over, especially as winter approaches.
“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 of returning to their pre-Covid lives.
The survey revealed that the number of people who resumed their normal activities reached the highest level 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.”
Biden’s comments about pandemic widen public health split over how US should respond to COVID-19