The COVID-19 Pandemic Is Not ‘Over’
On September 18 2022, during a 60 Minutes segment, United States President Joe Biden’s remarks included a claim that the COVID-19 pandemic was “over” — leading to quite a lot of pushback:
In an interview on “60 Minutes” Sunday night [September 18 2022], President Biden said the COVID-19 pandemic is “over” in the United States.
“The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lotta work on it. … But the pandemic is over,” Mr. Biden said.
The interview was done as he walked the floor of the Detroit Auto Show [in September 2022]. Gesturing around the hall, Mr. Biden observed, “If you notice, no one’s wearing masks. 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.”
Mr. Biden’s comments came only a few weeks after his administration asked Congress for billions of dollars to maintain its testing and vaccination efforts.
Twitter user @davenewworld_2 shared a clip of Biden’s remarks, made in response to the interviewer’s question about whether the pandemic was “over.” Biden was filmed at the first Detroit Auto Show since the public health emergency began in March 2020:
Biden says "the pandemic is over" even though hundreds of Americans are dying every day, millions are suffering from Long Covid, the CDC is still working from home, and we're tracking high COVID levels in the wastewater. This pandemic is not over.pic.twitter.com/6itdwaPLkP
— Fifty Shades of Whey (@davenewworld_2) September 19, 2022
A popular post to Reddit’s r/Coronavirus referenced Biden’s statement, which also offered a link to an article about the “end” of COVID-19:
Joe Biden says the COVID-19 pandemic is over. This is what the data tells us from Coronavirus
A September 19 2022 NPR article, the headline of which matched that of the r/Coronavirus submission, began with information about recent figures for new cases from the United States and other countries:
His remarks came as Biden’s own administration [sought] an additional $22.4 billion from Congress to keep funding the fight against COVID, and as the United States continues to see hundreds of related deaths every day.
But is it still a pandemic? The National Institutes of Health defines the term as “an epidemic of disease, or other health condition, that occurs over a widespread area (multiple countries or continents) and usually affects a sizable part of the population.”
Globally, there have been about 612 million cases of coronavirus. The number of new daily cases peaked in January  for many countries, including the U.S. (806,987), France (366,554) and India (311,982) … From Aug. 16 to Sept. 17 , there were 19.4 million new cases worldwide, with some of the most significant increases happening in Japan (29%), Taiwan (20%) and Hong Kong (19%). The U.S. had a 3% increase in cases during that time period, equivalent to 2.5 million incidents.
NPR’s story also embedded a Twitter response from physician and public health expert Megan Ranney, who described Biden’s claim as “malarkey”:
Is the pandemic DIFFERENT? Sure.
We have vaccines & infection-induced immunity. We have treatments. We have tests (while they last). The fatality rate is way down. And so we respond to it differently.
But over?! With 400 deaths a day?!
I call malarkey. https://t.co/KpLUfeMgBj
— Megan Ranney MD MPH 🌻 (@meganranney) September 19, 2022
A September 18 2022 Business Insider article about Biden’s statement (“Biden says the ‘pandemic is over’ despite the US maintaining one of the highest death rates worldwide with nearly 400 Americans dying of COVID-19 daily”) focused on mortality rates, as well as comments from a World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson:
While cases [were at the time] falling, Biden’s comments [came] as hundreds of Americans continue[d] to die from the infectious disease. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US [was] averaging around 400 deaths per day [in mid-September 2022].
On Wednesday [September 14 2022], a spokesperson from the World Health Organization said the “end is in sight” but urged countries to maintain their vigilance, according to Reuters.
On September 14 2022, Reuters covered the World Health Organization director general’s remarks about an “end in sight” for a pandemic-weary world — cautiously optimistic, but making it clear that the pandemic is not yet settled history:
The world has never been in a better position to end the COVID-19 pandemic, the head of the World Health Organization said on [September 14 2022], his most optimistic outlook yet on the years-long health crisis which has killed over six million people.
“We are not there yet. But the end is in sight,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at a virtual press conference.
That was the most upbeat assessment from the UN agency since it declared an international emergency in January 2020 and started describing COVID-19 as a pandemic three months later [in March 2022].
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus emphasized the necessity for nations “to take a hard look at their policies and strengthen them for COVID-19 and future viruses,” and Reuters added:
Still on Wednesday [September 14 2022], [WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus] again urged nations to maintain their vigilance and likened the pandemic to a marathon race.
“Now is the time to run harder and make sure we cross the line and reap the rewards of all our hard work.”
A September 19 2022 editorial in Becker’s Hospital Review, “‘Wish this was true’: Physicians react to declaration that pandemic is over,” encapsulated the specific type of exhaustion felt by medical professionals:
The nation’s current death rate is a core focus of physicians’ concern with the president’s statement. About 400 Americans are dying each day from COVID-19 [in September 2022], according to HHS data compiled by The New York Times. While that’s down from an average of nearly 2,000 per day during delta’s peak, it’s far too many to claim a ‘pandemic over’ victory, physicians and other health experts say.
“Heck no. With all due respect, [President Joe Biden] — you’re wrong. Pandemic is not over. Almost 3,000 Americans are dying from #COVID19 every single week,” Eric Feigl-Ding, PhD, an epidemiologist and former faculty member at Boston-based Harvard Medical School, tweeted. “A weekly 9/11 is a very big deal. Don’t even get me started on #LongCOVID — wreaking havoc on millions more.”
Under current circumstances, declaring the pandemic over would mean accepting 400 deaths per day as the new “baseline normal,” Jerome Adams, MD, tweeted. “A pandemic occurs when an epidemic has spread globally. And according to [CDC], an epidemic is an increase in cases over what is normally expected. So if the pandemic is over, ipso facto 400 COVID deaths a day is our new baseline ‘normal,'” he said.
A regularly updated “The latest on the coronavirus” resource maintained by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health experts contained a March 2022 entry about the end of COVID-19, based on an article that had recently been published on Science.org, summarized as follows:
March 4 : When is a pandemic ‘over’? (Science)
The World Health Organization is responsible for officially declaring the pandemic “over” at some point—but the decision is a complicated matter with political, financial, and health implications, say experts. Yonatan Grad, Melvin J. and Geraldine L. Glimcher Associate Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, noted that it’s “not an enviable task.” He asked, “Do you call it over when there still might be a wave in one part of the world but it’s a small part?” And Caroline Buckee, professor of epidemiology, said that the criteria for declaring a pandemic’s end are more social and political than scientific. “There’s not going to be a scientific threshold,” she said. “There’s going to be an opinion-based consensus.”
A 60 Minutes interview with U.S. President Joe Biden aired on September 18 2022, and in it, Biden stated: “The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID …” Biden’s remarks came less than a week after the WHO’s Director-General said of COVID-19 that “now” was “the time to run harder and make sure we cross the line and reap the rewards of all our hard work,” indicating that the pandemic was not yet over. Public health experts on and off social media objected to the claim, noting that as of September 2022, an average of 400 Americans are still dying from the viruas every day.