Joe Biden says the Covid-19 pandemic is finally over.
The president made a declaration on CBS 60 minutes in an interview on the weekend as Biden prepared to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II across the Atlantic.
“The pandemic is over,” he said. “We still have a problem with Covid. We are still working on it a lot. But the pandemic is over. If you notice, nobody wears masks. “
More than two years after the virus first made its way to the US shores, it seems to be an announcement that should have come months ago. But the United States – as well as many other countries – continue to grapple with reports of new Covid transmissions and deaths from the virus, making the president’s claim questionable.
The question now seems to have evolved somewhat: when does the emergence and spread of a new virus no longer qualify as a “pandemic”, if it is not clear whether the spread of the virus can ever be completely prevented?
Vaccines against the virus and its variants – Omicron, Delta, and so on – have so far proved ineffective in preventing contractions or transmission of the disease, while remaining the only best defense against its most lethal symptoms. However, large swathes of the population, including entire communities, remain unvaccinated and immune to the idea, meaning there is still enough room across America for Covid to spread and cause serious damage.
If you follow the National Institute of Health (NIH) definition of a pandemic, it seems unlikely that the United States will escape the label anytime soon. The Agency defines the term as “an epidemic of a disease or other medical condition that occurs over a large area (many countries or continents) and usually affects a large proportion of the population”.
There is no doubt that Covid continues to be “over a large area” and affects “a large proportion of the population”. On average, hundreds of Americans are still dying from the virus every day, while spikes earlier this year and late 2021 took those numbers to thousands. Covid continues to entrap communities and economies around the world, causing problems in the global supply chain; Earlier this month, Chinese officials instituted a Covid blockade in Chengdu, one of western China’s largest cities, and similar restrictions are in place in two other cities.
There are no signs that US deaths will drop to zero, or at least to a much lower number. There is also no indication that disruptions to the global supply chain resulting directly from the spread of the virus will end in the near future. So it’s not clear whether the president really believes the pandemic is over or is trying to do something else – completely redefine the term.
It is noteworthy that the only evidence the president announced the “end” of the pandemic was the fact that many Americans have abandoned public health measures such as mask wearing and social distancing in favor of the protection provided by vaccines – or in many cases their own arrangement immune. However, part of the population continues to condemn such statements, calling them a slap in the face of people whose lives remain deeply affected by the pandemic itself, or “Long Covid,” a term for what the Centers for Disease Control calls Covid symptoms that persist months or years after infection.
However, many vulnerable Americans are still isolated from society as a result of the virus and may indeed feel left behind by the insistence of the president.
Their supporters gathered outside the White House on Monday and picketed the president’s mansion to demand help for Americans with persistent Covid symptoms.