Biden says “the pandemic is over.” Some local docs disagree.


Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that the United States is on track to see more than 10,000 COVID-related deaths this month.

During a “60 Minutes” appearance on Sunday, President Joe Biden said the COVID-19 pandemic was over. The Associated Press

Appearing Sunday night on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” President Joe Biden made a statement that many Americans have long awaited: “The pandemic is over.”

“We still have a problem with COVID. We are still working on it a lot. … But the pandemic is over,” Biden said, according to CNN.

Some public health experts disagree.

“Now is not the time to say the pandemic is over,” said Dr. Megan Ranney, a practicing emergency physician and academic dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.

“We’re definitely in a better place with COVID than we’ve been in the past two years,” she said in an interview, citing better treatments, new recalls targeting the omicron variant, and rising rates. lower hospitalization rates.

“But this disease is still here with us,” Ranney said. “He still kills a lot of people. It still affects a lot of people. It still causes a lot of long term disability with long COVID.

She continued: “As a New Englander, I kind of feel like we’re in the Heartbreak Hill moment of the marathon, where we’ve made a lot of progress, but we haven’t walked the course yet.”

Where are we ?

In Massachusetts and across the United States, the burden of COVID-19 has been fairly stable for a few months now, according to Dr. Jonathan Levy, chair of the environmental health department at the Boston University School of Public Health.

However, “stable doesn’t necessarily mean low – it means there’s kind of a sustained level that we’ve had for some time, and there continues to be some health burden, as well as a disruption for a number of people,” Levy said.

According to its COVID-19 dashboard, Massachusetts had 7,936 new confirmed cases in the seven days to September 15. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that the United States is on the verge of more than 10,000 COVID-related deaths in September. , Levy noted.

The virus also continues to disproportionately impact certain populations, including those who are immunocompromised or for whom taking 5 to 10 days off during a bout with COVID-19 would be very disruptive, Levy said.

With outbreaks of COVID-19 still occurring around the world, “we have not yet met the criteria to say this is no longer a pandemic,” Ranney said, adding that he would be also premature to call COVID-19 endemic like the flu or the common cold.

A public health setback

“I think we all want this to be over,” she said. “We are all tired of this disease; we want it gone. …Thanks to advances in public health, many people are able to act as if COVID is no longer around and a threat.

Biden’s comments also came as the country’s public health emergency nears expiration next month. According to the Washington Post, this emergency declaration allowed federal authorities to quickly authorize new COVID-19 treatments and keep many Americans covered by Medicaid, with an estimated 15.8 million people who will lose coverage after the end. of the declaration of emergency.

“While things are closer to normal than they have been, this post is going to set us back,” Ranney said. “The current situation is largely due to the fact that we are treating this like a pandemic – getting vaccines in the arms, getting ventilation, getting treatments and tests for the average person. If we pull out now, we risk making things worse.

“It’s not like the pandemic is going to end on a fixed day when we can say, ‘Yesterday there was a pandemic; today there is no longer a pandemic,” Levy added.

The end of the pandemic is a gradual process where the virus becomes more predictable and society finds a way to control it, he explained.

“I don’t think we’re at that level of predictability yet, nor do I think that deaths of hundreds of thousands a year, many long cases of COVID, and many disruptions to school and the work should be something we accept as the new normal,” Levy said.

Some factors are beyond human control, including the evolution of new variants, he said. However, vaccinations, treatments, testing and other public health interventions — including paid sick leave — will help end the pandemic sooner, according to Levy.

What can you do?

“The biggest and most important thing people can do today is to make sure they are vaccinated and, if eligible, strengthened – especially for people aged 50 and over” , Ranney said.

She also advised wearing masks in public during surges and advocating for investments in ventilation, testing and treatment.

Levy said people should be “responsive” when it comes to wearing masks, testing and avoiding crowds indoors.

“Just because people want to move past COVID doesn’t mean it’s no longer present and in our lives,” he said.


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