Biden: The Pandemic Is Over

The President is getting hammered from all sides for stating the obvious.

In the same 60 Minutes interview wherein he doubled down on his pledge to defend Taiwan from Chinese aggression, President Biden declared the COVID-19 “over.” Some are none too happy.

POLITICO (“Biden declared the pandemic ‘over.’ His Covid team says it’s more complicated.“):

White House officials spent the better part of this year plotting a delicate, step-by-step process they hoped would guide the U.S. out of its pandemic era.

One element that was not part of that plan: President Joe Biden just coming out and saying it.

“The pandemic is over,” Biden said in a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday night. “We still have a problem with Covid. We’re still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over.”

The declaration surprised the president’s own senior health officials, many of whom only learned about Biden’s remarks from tweets and news headlines. The president had not originally planned to make major news on Covid, nor had he discussed with his health advisers announcing an end to the pandemic soon, two senior officials said.

When the White House reviewed a transcript of his comments after the interview, which was taped earlier in the week, it did not alert its Covid team — leaving the administration without a coordinated response for the immediate aftermath.

In the hours since, health officials have privately and sarcastically applauded themselves for a job well done: After 20 months of round-the-clock work, they joked, all it took to end a once-in-a-century crisis was for Biden to declare it finished. Others argued that the time had actually come for such a declaration; that the virus is in a manageable state and Biden was simply putting in blunt terms where his administration has long been headed.

Substantively, however, there was lingering concern that Biden’s off-the-cuff comments could undercut the White House’s effort to actually bring the public health emergency that is the Covid crisis to a formally declared close — and turn into a political headache should the virus come roaring back.

“We are not where we need to be if we are going to quote ‘live with the virus’,” Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, said on Monday. “We still must be aware of how unusual this virus is and continues to be in its ability to evolve into new variants which defy the standard public health mechanisms of addressing an outbreak.”

ABC News (“Is the COVID pandemic really ‘over’ like Biden says? Experts say no“):

Data from the federal health agency shows that hundreds of COVID-19-related deaths are being recorded every day and that around 14,000 Americans died from the virus last month.

Public health experts told ABC News that the pandemic is not over yet and that Biden’s comments may be a bit premature.

“The pandemic is emphatically not over,” Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, told ABC News. “I would highlight the first [reason] is number of deaths per year.”

The U.S. has recorded more than 223,000 deaths so far this year, CDC data shows.

“That’s several-fold higher than a typical flu season,” Chin-Hong said, with an average of about 35,000 deaths per year from the 2010-11 flu season to the 2019-20 flu season, according to an ABC News analysis of CDC data.

He said if the annual COVID death toll continues to remain high, “it would be way higher than diabetes, other respiratory illnesses. That number is not insignificant at all.”

[…]

“My concern about all of this is that when you say the pandemic is over, that becomes synonymous with there’s no disease,” Dr. Perry Halkitis, dean of Rutgers School of Public Health, told ABC News. “But we know there’s disease that very much exists in the United States still making people sick and still killing people. It could be troubling because of the increase in respiratory illness in the fall season.”

During a press conference last Thursday, the World Health Organization’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the end of the pandemic was “in sight.”

“Last week, the number of weekly reported deaths from Covid-19 was the lowest since March 2020,” Ghebreyesus said. “We have never been in a better position to end the pandemic. We’re not there yet, but the end is in sight.”

The WHO continues to classify COVID-19 as Public Health Emergency of International Concern and the U.S. continues to declare the virus to be a Public Health Emergency, but experts say the country is likely transitioning from being in a pandemic to an endemic phase.

[…]

“We’re not in as bad a place as we have been in the past, which is good,” Dr. Julia Raifman, an assistant professor of health law, policy and management at Boston University School of Public Health who researches state-level policy responses to the pandemic, told ABC News. “But I remain very concerned that we are not prepared for surges of new variants. And that we are likely to have a high cumulative toll, almost all of it preventable.”

“Just being ready to turn those on when there’s a surge of a new variant will be very helpful, but there’s no readiness for that right now,” Raifman continued.

It seems obvious to me that Biden was making a statement about public policy, not epidemiology. COVID is still with us. The virus is mutating to survive against the vaccines. It’s still killing a lot of people. But the fact of the matter is that the general public, even those who were cheerfully compliant with masking, social distancing, and vaccinations, are simply over it. Outside the most vulnerable populations, people simply aren’t interested in masking and other restrictions to getting on with their lives nearly three years into this thing.

So, for example, even though CDC guidelines, local infection rates, and past DoD policy would seem to indicate that we should be back to masking and lower occupancy levels at work, we have been given updated guidance that puts that decision at the discretion of the base commander who is very unlikely to return us to previous levels of caution. Whether that’s smart is debatable. But, again, even in a military organization where people are accustomed to following orders and living under austere conditions, there’s just no appetite for going back.

This strikes me as exactly right:

“So endemic means sort of normal amounts of cases … for the foreseeable future, COVID is here to stay and we should expect some COVID cases,” Dr. Dana Mazo, an infectious diseases specialist and clinical associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health, told ABC News. “What we’re seeing is that COVID is around and we all have to learn to live with it.”

She added, “And I think it’s more important versus talking about terminology, it’s more important for people to understand that COVID has not gone away. It’s unlikely to go completely away anytime soon.”

Some people have a heightened risk for contracting and, especially, suffering severe symptoms from the virus. They should obviously take additional precautions. Some have a higher tolerance for masking—indeed, some seem to like it—and other restrictive measures and/or a lower risk tolerance and will act accordingly. We should cheerfully allow them to do so without negative social judgment.

Leading public health expert Leana S. Wen, a frequent WaPo contributor, goes further, declaring, “Biden is right. The pandemic is over.

By multiple definitions, the pandemic is over. That doesn’t mean that the coronavirus is no longer causing harm; it simply signals the end of an emergency state as covid has evolved into an endemic disease.

A pandemic is something that upends our daily lives and profoundly alters the way that we work, go to school, worship and socialize. That was certainly the case in March 2020. I was among the public health experts who urged people to “stay home, save lives.” We called for Americans to avoid “play dates, sleepovers, bars, restaurants, parties or houses of worship.” Employers sent workers home en masse. Schools pivoted to remote instruction.

Things changed with the arrival of vaccines. Many individuals, once vaccinated, began resuming their pre-pandemic activities. Others, like my family, waited until younger kids could receive the shots. By now, the vast majority of Americans have been vaccinated or recovered from covid-19 or both. The preventive antibody Evusheld and treatments such as Paxlovid and monoclonal antibodies provide further protection against severe illness.

As a result, most Americans have turned the page and abandoned mitigation measures. By August, according to a Morning Consult poll, just 14 percent of adults viewed covid as a severe health risk. This tracks with their other findings that only 28 percent still mask in all settings, while 75 percent were comfortable with indoor dining.

For most of the country, the pandemic is effectively over because it is no longer altering people’s day-to-day lives. To them, covid has evolved from a dire deadly disease to one that’s more akin to the flu. It’s still something people want to avoid, and they’ll take basic steps to do so, such as getting an annual vaccine. Some might choose to take extra precautions, such as masking in indoor settings. But the societal end of the pandemic has already arrived, a sentiment reflected in Biden’s comment.

It’s not just a matter of Americans throwing caution to the wind, either.

The scientific end of the pandemic might have arrived, too. On this point, there is disagreement among experts. On the one hand, the coronavirus continues to cause illness and death. About 30,000 people are currently hospitalized with covid in the United States, and more than 400 people a day are still dying from it. Long covid might lead to lasting health effects in as many as 1 in 5 infected with the coronavirus.

On the other hand, deaths globally from covid-19 have fallen to their lowest level since March 2020. The actual numbers may be far lower. Some researchers have argued that reported covid death counts are substantially overestimated because hospitalized patients are tested routinely regardless of symptoms, and being hospitalized with covid is different from being ill because of it. An infectious-disease physician in Boston told NPR that 70 percent of reported covid hospitalizations in her hospital are due to patients testing incidentally for the coronavirus.

Some might say that’s a distinction without a difference. They are, after all, infected. But I agree that being positive for the virus but not sick enough to seek medical treatment is a very different thing, indeed, from the mass hospitalizations—often in intensive care—we saw during the pre-vaccination phase.

Perhaps the most significant rationale in favor of the transition from pandemic to endemic is the growing consensus that covid will never be eradicated. Countries that instituted some of the strictest policies have lifted them. Even New Zealand recently removed mask and vaccine mandates and lifted all pandemic travel restrictions. China is the only outlier still pursuing a zero-covid policy that’s exacting a huge economic and humanitarian toll.

The world’s leading totalitarian state is, naturally, in a different position to make demands of its citizens.

Now, the politics of this work both ways. On the one hand, Biden is leading within the context of where the people he leads are on the issue. On the other, that doesn’t prevent the opposition party from capitalizing. The above-linked POLITICO piece notes,

Biden’s pronouncement is likely to give Republicans more ammo to oppose the White House’s funding request to keep the federal Covid response afloat. The White House is seeking more than $22 billion, though Democrats’ faith they could secure that amount in an upcoming budget bill was waning even before the airing of “60 Minutes.”

It could also complicate the administration’s campaign for people to seek updated vaccines ahead of a potential winter surge — an uphill battle that health officials say will be the true determinant for whether the U.S. can emerge from the pandemic.

“Covid is probably not the biggest issue at this moment,” a senior Biden official said. “It’s just that Covid is still a real challenge. And if things go bad, it could go from being a problem to being the biggest issue again.”

Wen acknowledges this and responds,

Biden’s detractors argue that he can’t have it both ways — that he can’t say that the pandemic is over and still ask Congress for funding and encourage Americans to get boosted. These critics are willfully misrepresenting public health policy. Just because a disease is endemic doesn’t mean the level of illness is acceptable or should be ignored. Consider HIV and cancer. These are not considered pandemics, but the goal is still to prevent disease and provide affected patients with state-of-the art medical care.

Indeed, there are many other ailments that deserve far more attention, from the epidemics of opioid overdose and obesity to the reemergence of polio and the worsening mental health crisis. Removing the “pandemic” designation for covid places it among the list of diseases harming Americans, all of which require focus and funding.

It is also imperative that we learn the lessons from covid to bolster our inadequate public health infrastructure. People across the political spectrum should agree that we cannot afford to allow our lives to be upended again. As the United States ends its emergency footing in this pandemic, we must double down on efforts to prevent the next.

Alas, too few in the post-Trump GOP leadership have shown such statesmanship. But that doesn’t mean Biden is wrong.

FILED UNDER: Health, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    The pandemic is so not over I’ll even hazard a prediction: the UK will see an increase in cases this week, due to the mass gatherings for the royal funerary rituals over the weekend and the funeral procession yesterday.

    Cases in the week ending Sept. 18th, were 31,734 in the Johns Hopkins COVID tracker. We’ll see how many more accrue for the week ending on the 25th.

    On other things:

    Indeed, there are many other ailments that deserve far more attention, from the epidemics of opioid overdose and obesity to the reemergence of polio and the worsening mental health crisis.

    Yes, there are many more problems for the GQP to neglect.

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  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    Covid, like the flu, will always be with us and like the flu, will kill a part of the population each year. It is probable that some strain of the virus will be so severe and infectious, that it will become a healthcare emergency again.

    But the public has moved on and not just here, I was in the Canadian maritime’s last week and nary a mask was there to be seen, though many small shops had faded notes asking customers to wear a mask, though few complied.

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  3. Jen says:

    We recently traveled to Ireland. Voluntary masking was FAR higher in Boston than anywhere we were in Ireland. We tend to avoid cities and instead head out to more remote parts where we can walk and hike, etc. And, instead of visiting multiple areas, we remained in one area/one hotel for our entire trip, rented a car instead of using public transport–basically, we altered how we vacationed to reduce chances of getting sick.

    People need to assess their personal risk factors and act accordingly. We will continue to get boosters and take reasonable precautions, and will monitor local infection levels–but we are going to start traveling again.

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  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    Inevitably people strongly committed to fighting a political battle refuse to admit when they’ve won. Their jobs, their lifestyles, their self-images rely too much on their self-perception as warriors in the battle.

    The pandemic is over. Covid is killing a fraction of those who die of heart disease and cancer, and it’s killing fewer people every week. It’s here now, like measles and flu and chicken pox. Unless you’re an anti-vax moron or immuno-compromised, the odds of dying of Covid are very small. It is now a nuisance disease to be managed with innoculation, Paxlovid and bed rest.

    Once again Biden has blurted out the truth – yes gays should be able to marry, yes MAGA is a fascist movement, yes we’ll defend Taiwan, yes the pandemic phase is over – and in the words of Colonel Jessup, Americans can’t handle the truth. For about a week. Then they get over it and grudgingly admit Biden was right. But first we must have the performative outrage.

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  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    My wife is on book tour and worried about getting Covid. Not for fear of death, but for fear of being trapped for a week in some suites hotel in some place like Harbor Springs, Michigan. I share that fear. She had her back go out in Tallahassee and I had to fly out to tend to her. Tallahassee. For a week. Tallahassee, where Wendy’s is where you go on date night. Shudder. I’ve told her if she gets sick Harbor Springs is not on – she’ll have to get sick in DC, Chicago or Atlanta.

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  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Some have a higher tolerance for masking—indeed, some seem to like it—

    I can’t say that I like it, but masking up doesn’t bother me near as much as the colds and flus I haven’t been subjected to the past few years.

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  7. MarkedMan says:

    We have entirely forgotten that given the transmissibility of the original variant it was never the opinion of public health experts that we could get to herd immunity. The mantra was “flatten the curve”, i.e. accept that everyone was going to get it eventually but to spread them out over time and hope for an early and effective vaccine. And, after the initial wave that overwhelmed the Northeast, we pretty much pulled it off – except in trump states. (Should that have come as a surprise to anyone?)

    We had one shot (heh) at this: if the original vaccine was effective against spread as well as warding off serious illness, and it remained effective against all the variants, we could have gotten to the point where the deaths were primarily limited to trumpers. But this didn’t happen. Once the new variants came the vaccines were ineffective against spread and the new variants were an order of magnitude more transmissible than the original. So the bottom line is that while an individual can reduce their chance of getting it, as a society we have more or less dialed it in to our risk assessments, like the seasonal flu. My one frustration is that it has gotten increasingly difficult to understand what the risks are for someone of a particular age who is vaxed and fully boosted. Nothing against the CDC, it truly is difficult to suss out now.

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  8. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Unless you’re an anti-vax moron or immuno-compromised, the odds of dying of Covid are very small. It is now a nuisance disease to be managed with innoculation, Paxlovid and bed rest.

    Paxlovid is only for 55 or above, or people with specific medical conditions, at least according to my doctor.

    And people do not spring back the way they do from the flu.

    Meanwhile, Lena S. Wen writes;

    About 30,000 people are currently hospitalized with covid in the United States, and more than 400 people a day are still dying from it. Long covid might lead to lasting health effects in as many as 1 in 5 infected with the coronavirus.

    That’s a lot of additional people in hospitals. That’s a significant burden on the system.

    Long covid gives folks everything from heart problems, chronic fatigue and brain fog to relatively minor complaints. And we have no treatment or prevention.

    We are walking into a slow moving, mass disabling event, in a country that really isn’t good at dealing with the disabled in the best of times. And we aren’t really trying to do anything to reduce the impact — we aren’t overhauling guidelines on indoor air quality, requiring masks in key locations (mass transit and airplanes alone would be good, along with air quality monitoring in workplaces).

    Maybe I’m overly alarmist — that would be great. Maybe it will work itself out. We do have a growing authoritarian movement, and they are pretty effective at reducing the number of disabled when push comes to shove.

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  9. Kathy says:

    The week ending in Sept. 20th 2020 saw 291.000 COVID cases in the US. Last week, ending on Sept. 18th 2022 saw 436,000.

    So, if with a higher number of cases the pandemic is no more, than it truly never was when the number of cases was lower, right? we’ve been fantasizing a pandemic for two and half years now.

    What? Fight sophistry with more ingenious sophistry.

    In this case, we all really want the pandemic to be over, so we’re rationalizing how hundreds of thousands of new infections plus thousands of death per week from one pathogen is “normal.”

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  10. Kathy says:

    @Gustopher:

    Last I heard, Paxlovid was indicated for everyone, provided it was within a few days from symptoms onset at the latest. I do know personally a few people well under 55 who got it.

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  11. Gustopher says:

    @MarkedMan:

    We have entirely forgotten that given the transmissibility of the original variant it was never the opinion of public health experts that we could get to herd immunity

    This is just wrong.

    The original virus was not as contagious as what we have now, so estimates needed for herd immunity was a manageable 70% of the population to be immune, either through vaccine or post-infection immunity.

    We have herd immunity against measles, through vaccination, and it was expected that we could do the same here.

    We didn’t know that people could be infected multiple times, or that the vaccine would be short lasting, or that it would mutate into something even more infectious. If we had, we would not have been so optimistic.

    But the original goals were squash outbreaks through herd immunity. The goals have changed as our knowledge and the virus changed.

    In fact, the current goals seem to be to just declare victory while giving up because our original goals cannot be met, rather than adjusting the goals.

    How many people should die or be disabled by this disease per year? There are numbers between zero and “as many as the disease wants, lol” that we could be aiming for. But it would require ongoing effort.

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  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:

    Paxlovid is only for 55 or above, or people with specific medical conditions, at least according to my doctor.

    My 25 year-old daughter got it within 24 hours, despite the fact that we were away from home. She had one day of symptoms. Waiting to see if we get a rebound or long Covid.

    No one has stopped working on Covid. The labs didn’t shut down because Biden said the pandemic is over. We will continue producing vaccines, antivirals, etc…, in fact we may see more activity from Big Pharma because there’s nothing so profitable as a disease or syndrome that must be treated but can never be eradicated. See: male pattern baldness, diabetes, high blood pressure and erectile dysfunction.

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  13. Mr. Prosser says:

    I get most of my medical care at the local VA. Was there last Friday and mandatory masking is still enforced.

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  14. Scott says:

    @Mr. Prosser: This makes sense and you have to wonder why it wasn’t done before. I get care from the local bases. If I’m going in for same day care or urgent care, then I am probably sick and should wear a mask. So should all the other sick people in the waiting room.

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  15. inhumans99 says:

    @Kathy:

    My brother turns 54 in a month and he was easily able to get paxlovid (he found himself feeling nearly in tip top shape within a few days, well enough to continue moving lots of stuff into his Oakhurst cabin, near Yosemite, that he will rent out on the STR sites like airbnb).

    Unfortunately, Biden is pretty much correct that we are now moving on to no longer treating Covid as a pandemic illness and more like a seasonal one like the Cold or the Flu (but one that is crazy easy to catch throughout the year).

    I have resigned myself to saying it is what it is and so many people do not mask anymore that I kind-of usually follow along. So far my immune system has been good to me, my Dad gets Covid a couple days after we get back from Chicago (I tested negative), and he gives it to my my Mom (fortunately, they each have at least 3 shots in them, and will be getting the new shot soon), and I spent my Birthday weekend on the 9th helping my brother move stuff into his cabin, so we were in close proximity all the time, and I get back to my home in Fremont, him to his home in Castro Valley, and on Sunday evening he announces he has Covid. So yeah, at one point 3 family members had Covid around the same time, lol and yikes.

    Me, all the test were clearly negative. It seems I am not even asymptomatic, so while I have a tendency to get colds, and get a yearly flu shot because I have had the flu a couple times over the past 5-10 years (and the flu is really nasty, I cringe when folks say oh Covid is maybe a bit worse than the flu, if I never get the flu again in my lifetime it is too soon, lol), I seem to be able keep Covid at bay. So yes, Covid is a nasty little bugger when you get it, you may live through it but the experience of having it is crazy lousy, however short it lasts before you are able to declare yourself Covid free again.

    Again, kudos to my immune system for keeping me Covid free.

    I think MR is right, some of the usual suspects will rage at Biden but about a week later, most sane folks will just stop saying he was wrong to say what he said and grudgingly or not, agree with Biden and move on with life as best as we all can.

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  16. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: Whether a person believes the pandemic is over or not (as in “how likely am I to get sick and die” kinda like depression:recession::you’re hurting:I’m hurting) is an article of faith–and all of us have faiths, even the agnostics/atheists. Those of us who are more cynical will have to simply accept that the MRs and JJs of the world are going to cheerlead the rosy Covid scenario because that’s what they really want to believe.

    If these articles and comment threads are going to make one angry/frustrated/saddened at the levels at which humans are stupies/dismayed, the best approach is to stop reading them. I will continue to wish good health/luck to the latest version of Covidiots because I’m trying to be a better person.

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  17. Michael Cain says:

    My county has survived the first three weeks of the new semester with 25,000 college students in town without a surge. Staffed in-patient hospital beds with Covid patients has just dropped below 1.5%. Three deaths last month, all aged over 70. Three so far this month, all aged over 80. Medical care and assisted living facilities still require masks, no place else is bothering. I suspect that may never go away; at least the local hospitals seem inclined to keep it just because employee sick days have dropped so much.

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  18. dazedandconfused says:

    @MarkedMan:

    The original vaccine was good for preventing serious illness but ineffective at preventing mild infection and thereby preventing spread, but it likely cut spread somewhat. Bear in mind a mild or asymptomatic infection is itself a vaccine. Giving someone a mild or asymptomatic case is the way vaccines function. After eliminating the infection, for awhile, our immune systems are so mobilized as to make us very nearly totally immune for some time after, generally a couple months. Unlike vaccines for some other viruses, like smallpox and polio, the COVID vaccine did not provide this level of immunity.

    If we ever get to the point where the herd has all been recently infected (ideally asymptomatically…perhaps a better word would be “exposed”) COVID, a bug that can barely survive a couple days outside of a host, is going to have a hard time existing at all.

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  19. MarkedMan says:

    @Gustopher: My recollection is different. In the first two to three months there was hope that the transmissibility would be low enough we could get this under control with contact tracing and local shutdowns. There was no vaccine yet so that didn’t even enter into it. But by February or March 2020 it was all about flattening the curve. Here’s one example from March of 2020 (2nd page) of many that popped up when I googled “flattening the curve”. Note this statement:

    A flatter curve is created by a more gradual increase in the number of cases per day
    and a more gradual decrease. Over a long period of time the number of people infected might be around the
    same, but the difference is the number of cases that occur each day.

    It was all about not overwhelming the hospitals, something that happened over and over again. In the US, after the initial wave, that happened primarily in trump states.

    There was another cautious wave of hope in the Public Health community when the vaccines turned out to be so effective wrt transmissibility, but by the time they were being deployed we knew they were not nearly effective against newer variants (wrt transmissibility) and that transmissibility was ramping up.

    Did the public come to believe that if only everyone masked then no one would get the virus? Yes. Did the CDC and other Public Health agencies try to correct that belief? Not really, although they never said it. It was just a general consensus amongst those of us who took the virus seriously.

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  20. MarkedMan says:

    @Scott: I would be very happy if masking were mandatory in all doctors offices and hospitals.

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  21. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy:

    so we’re rationalizing how hundreds of thousands of new infections plus thousands of death per week from one pathogen is “normal.”

    I fear this will freak you out but, yes, there are a good number of viral diseases where we had hundreds of thousands of new infections and thousands of deaths per week. Those numbers hold pretty much every flu season. Admittedly an important difference is that they are seasonal and so the numbers don’t last a whole year, but that only matters on average, not to individuals. When it is flu season, you are about as likely to get the flu and die from it as you are of COVID.

    We are also becoming more and more aware of the non-fatal effects of these other viral infections. I recently heard an epidemiologist say, essentially, that it is logical to believe other types of viral diseases have the equivalent of long COVID, they just haven’t been cataloged and studied as intensely as COVID. Early on, when people were talking about “COVID toe” and all the other weird things, I heard a reporter ask a virus researcher if COVID was weirder than any other disease. Her answer: not really. Lots of things she researched has weird symptoms and transmit in mysterious ways and seem to cause lasting effects, but the general public wasn’t aware of that research.

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  22. Lounsbury says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Drama Llamas love Drama. and Oh Woe the World is Woeful.

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  23. Kathy says:

    @inhumans99:

    Point is if the fire isn’t out but everyone thinks it is, you’re going to get burned or die of smoke inhalation.

    @dazedandconfused:

    The mRNA vaccines were great at preventing infection by the original strain and the Alpha variant, at least for a few months after the second dose. You can see the negative correlation between vaccines and cases from March to July 2021 (more vaccines applied, fewer cases). It looked like the real beginning of the end of the trump pandemic.

    Two things drove cases up: 1) the relaxation of masking and distancing rules for those vaccinated, which were taken up by the unvaxxed covidiots as well, and 2) the arrival of the Delta variant (which we saw coming when it had first ravaged India in April).

    The vaccines were not as effective against Delta, but they did protect from infection. That’s why the idea of boosters took off, in order to increase circulating antibodies for a few months. Unfortunately this was undone by the arrival of Omicron, which vaccines have little efficacy against.

    @MarkedMan:

    My take from your comment is we don’t do enough ro prevent the spread of flu during flu season. I don’t see that as license for allowing COVID to proliferate in like numbers.

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  24. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy:

    My take from your comment is we don’t do enough ro prevent the spread of flu during flu season. I don’t see that as license for allowing COVID to proliferate in like numbers.

    Should we do more? Absolutely! Requiring masks in medical facilities makes sense, and perhaps elsewhere. Continuing to develop boosters and pushing them out as soon as they become available. Also good! Developing public education plans that when you or your housemates are sick you should stay home or at least mask up? Another winner! And I’m sure there are other effective measures that could be taken up. But we know from a century of experience that given this type of risk, people are not going to avoid crowded spaces, wear masks or get universally vaccinated. I think we are a heck of a lot better off if the Public Health authorities spend their time on the measures we can achieve than by a futile attempt to fundamentally change peoples innate assessment of risk.

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  25. Andy says:

    This brings a couple of questions into my mind:

    What is the practical effect of declaring the pandemic over vs. declaring it is not over? I return again to the notion that effects are more important than intentions or labels.

    What are objective criteria we can use to draw the line between a “pandemic” and “endemic?” I don’t really have an answer to this. I tend to think we are now in the “endemic” phase, but I’m not sure where to draw that line.

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  26. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Lounsbury:
    It’s time to rethink the suppression of emotion. I think Spock got it right.

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  27. Jen says:

    @Andy: Officially calling the pandemic over will likely shut off a whole bunch of programs, and Republicans are already squawking about it meaning the end to any masking requirements for federal facilities and programs (like Head Start), and ending vaccination requirements for military members (stupid, since the military requires all kinds of vaccinations, but that’s always been a kind of dumb hill to die on). There are probably a bunch of assistance programs tied to pandemic vs. non-pandemic language too.

    Aside from that, there’s probably government backing to virus research that will get turned off too, along with any public health and safety announcements/warnings, funding for covid infection tracking (which has waned in usefulness as the severity of illness has dropped) and so on.

    To be clear, I’m not making any judgment on whether this is a good thing or a bad thing or an indifferent thing, just pointing out that there’s probably a lot riding on this distinction, which is why the medical community is up in arms about this.

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  28. Kathy says:

    @Jen:

    All that, and lots of people who won’t take the Omicron boosters because the pandemic is “over.”

    What worries me more is what happens if a new variant arises that is more virulent and as contagious even as the original strain. We’ll see deaths well beyond 400 per day. For one thing, Biden would take a massive hit for announcing the pandemic “over.”

    The last time he relaxed restrictions was when the vaccines were driving the spread down. His hubris was rewarded with Delta and Omicron. But maybe the gods are paying less attention now, or got bored and went elsewhere.

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  29. MarkedMan says:

    @Jen: I heard this morning that some Republican Congress Critters are saying that we should eliminate federal funds for COVID booster and vaccine purchase and distribution because it is over. A lot of Republicans are actual morons. My guess is something like 15-25%

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  30. dazedandconfused says:

    @Kathy:

    That the vaccine could only protect against infection for maybe a couple months is why it was ineffective at stopping the spread. This is why comparisons to polio and smallpox vaxes are tricky to make, at best.

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  31. Kathy says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    We never got that far. So we don’t know for sure. We may get a better read on it with the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 boosters, if no new variants crop up.

    To be sure, there were breakthrough infections before Delta, but I never saw any numbers in the groups involved with the Pfizer and Moderna Phase III testing. there are always breakthrough infections, the point is how many per 100,000 of vaccinated population.

    It may be, too, that circulating antibodies are more important during a pandemic than in normal times. But, again, Delta and Omicron wrecked that set of observations.

    Hell, if someone has a stash of original strain somewhere, I’d volunteer to be exposed to see whether a year and four months past Pfizer and five months past the second AZ booster I get infected or not.

    @MarkedMan:

    It’s the fifth law of thermodynamics: Covidiots gotta covidiot.

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  32. dazedandconfused says:

    @Kathy: That the spread was not checked is evidence of ineffectiveness in stopping the spread. This bug morphs itself around it far too quickly, but the vax was largely effective against the development of serious disease with the variants. With COVID, much like the flu and cold viruses which it resembles, our game is limited to stopping serious illness.

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  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: I think 15-25% is probably low. Maybe even by double.

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