American Opinion: Despite what the president says, the pandemic is definitely not over
From the editorial: Just because the nation has numbed itself to the pernicious and persistent effects of this virus doesn’t mean it no longer qualifies as a pandemic. And the country is heading
President Joe Biden is flat-out wrong if he thinks the pandemic is over. Although the trendlines are pointing downward, the United States still registers around 360 deaths per day from the coronavirus along with a seven-day average of 55,000 new infections, with 13,700 people currently hospitalized. Those numbers are a far cry from the earlier days of the pandemic, but that hardly means the threat is gone.
Biden’s pronouncement on CBS’ “60 Minutes” that “the pandemic is over” did a disservice to his own administration’s efforts to promote getting a third booster shot with a new vaccine deemed far more effective in combating the many coronavirus variants in circulation. Americans disinclined to take precautions will take Biden’s words as confirmation that the coronavirus isn’t such a big deal.
“We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over,” Biden said. “If you notice, no one’s wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape.”
The public is definitely willing to take more risks with the disease. The fear of death is subsiding as doctors improve treatments and vaccines reduce the likelihood of severe illness. But even healthy people are still getting infected, even after being vaccinated and double-boosted.
“We’ve had two million cases reported over the last 28 days, and we know underreporting is substantial,” Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, a University of Minnesota infectious-disease specialist, told The New York Times, adding that the coronavirus “continues to be the No. 4 cause of death in the country.”
Back in June 2021, officials were tempted to declare the pandemic over because infection rates were far lower than they are today. On June 14, 2021, there were only 8,370 registered nationwide new cases and 13,300 over a seven-day average. Within seven months, new cases had surged to 1.26 million, with the seven-day average reaching 764,000, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In other words, lulls in infection rates can be deceiving. There were similar lulls in the summer of 2020 followed by a dramatic surge in January 2021.
Current hospitalizations remain stubbornly high. And the statistics are almost certainly underplaying the full extent of the nation’s current infections because home-testing kits have eliminated much of the reporting of positive cases that previously informed the CDC’s databases. People are getting sick but not reporting it to authorities.
Just because the nation has numbed itself to the pernicious and persistent effects of this virus doesn’t mean it no longer qualifies as a pandemic. And the country is heading into another likely winter surge. The president could do all Americans a favor by maintaining a cautious tone and strongly emphasizing the importance of vaccinations and boosters — at least helping ensure that infections yield the mildest symptoms possible.
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