September 20, 2022

Is the Pandemic Over?

“In an interview on ‘60 Minutes’ Sunday night, 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.” CBS News

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From the Left

The left is divided about whether the pandemic is over, and calls for continued spending on public health.

“Over the past week, an average of 491 Americans have died of COVID each day… The week before, the number was 382. The week before that, 494. And so on… In earlier stages of the pandemic, Americans talked at length about a mythic ‘new normal.’ We were eager to imagine how life might be different—better, even—after a tragedy that focused the world’s attention on disease prevention. Now we’re staring down what that new normal might actually look like. The new normal is accepting 400 COVID deaths a day as The Way Things Are.”

Jacob Stern, The Atlantic

While “the US cannot eliminate COVID-19… The major problem with the President saying the pandemic is ‘over’ is that it could impede our efforts to reach low endemic levels. For example, Congress is less likely to renew funding for COVID-19 measures if the pandemic has ‘ended.’ And the public may hear the message that COVID-19 is ‘done’ and be less likely to get the new bivalent booster—the first vaccine tailored to the current virus variants. The current US burden of illness, hospitalizations, deaths, and Long Covid can and should be driven down before declaring that ‘the job is done.’”

Gavin Yamey, Time

Others argue that “Biden is absolutely right… The number of weekly reported deaths from COVID worldwide is the lowest since March 2020. This is good news, and it should be celebrated. With the levels of vaccination and immunity derived from prior infection, more and more of the global population — and certainly Americans — enjoys protection against COVID to ward off the worst outcomes…

“Public-health officials should understand that it’s impossible to expect any population to be on permanent war footing. Holiday gatherings were canceled, sometimes two years in a row. People couldn’t say good-bye to family members at hospitals and were barred from holding funerals. Now they want to live in full again, because life is indeed short and shouldn’t be spent in hiding, away from friends and loved ones…

Biden, in his own way, is making a philosophical argument too. We have to combat dread diseases, but we have to do our best, above all, to exist. Socialization is an essential component of being alive.”

Ross Barkan, New York Magazine

“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.”

Leana Wen, Washington Post

From the Right

The right agrees that the pandemic is over, and criticizes Biden for not ending emergency Covid policies.

The right agrees that the pandemic is over, and criticizes Biden for not ending emergency Covid policies.

“For most Americans, Covid is no worse than a bad flu. ‘If you are up-to-date on your vaccines today, and you avail yourself of the treatments, your chances of dying [from] COVID are vanishingly rare and certainly much lower than your risk of getting into trouble with the flu,’ White House Covid response coordinator Ashish Jha told National Public Radio…

“But if that’s right, why hasn’t the President also declared an end to the public-health and national emergencies? If the pandemic is over, then so is the emergency. Yet the Administration continues to extend the public-health emergency that was first declared in January 2020…

“Mr. Biden seems to want it both ways. He wants to reassure Americans tired of restrictions on their way of life that the pandemic is over and they can get on with their lives. But he wants to retain the official emergency so he can continue to expand the welfare state and force states to comply. Covid can’t be an emergency only when it’s politically useful.”

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“In May, the Biden administration (correctly) reported that it was obliged to end the use of Title 42 of the 1944 Public Health Services Act at the border because the Covid-19 emergency had passed… To put it more simply: Three months before Biden’s move on student loans, the CDC concluded that the pandemic was no longer enough of an emergency to justify extraordinary measures at the border…

“That, a quarter of a year later, the same administration asked us all to believe that the same pandemic was bad enough to justify giving hundreds of billions of dollars to college students was always utterly preposterous. Tonight, on 60 Minutes, President Biden confirmed as much in public. The courts — and the voters — must take note.”

Charles C. W. Cooke, National Review

“‘If you notice,’ Biden remarks, ‘no one’s wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape.’ That’s no thanks to Biden’s own administration, which has imposed mask mandates and then fought in court to keep them imposed…

“His HHS started off the school year by imposing a ridiculous mask mandate on toddlers in Head Start programs, even though no one believes toddlers can be effectively masked for more than a few minutes — and every bit of science on COVID-19 we have shows that they’re not at risk for seriously acute cases…

“Biden’s Department of Justice is still currently appealing a federal court ruling in Florida that struck down the transit mandate promulgated by the CDC… The pandemic has been over for half of Joe Biden’s presidency. Unfortunately, the authoritarianism lives on.”

Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

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