It’s not over until it’s over. The Covid-19 pandemic is not over, with an average of over 460 Covid-19-related deaths and over 31,000 Covid-19 hospitalizations per day, according to New York Times. However, guess what US President Joe Biden said to interviewer Scott Paley in last night’s episode 60 minutes? As you can see in the tweet below, Biden said “the pandemic is over” not once but twice 60 minutes:
What is the epidemic? Exceed? Oh no. As Murrayhead used to sing, Joe, say not so.
Well, who said the pandemic is over? Certainly not the World Health Organization, such as the World Health Organization. In fact, just two days ago, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, posted a tweet that basically said the opposite:
As you can see, Van Kerkhove emphasizes the need to persevere, keep going and keep working hard so that the world can actually end the pandemic. Quite different from Biden’s overly simplistic statement.
Find the definitions of the pandemics I cover Forbes in 2020. When a new pathogen, a virus or other microbe completely foreign to humans, spreads across multiple countries at the same time. You can’t really declare the pandemic over until any of these conditions change. This could happen sometime in the near future, maybe 2023, but it hasn’t happened yet. But the President of the United States is not a scientist or a medical expert, and at the Detroit auto show, it’s not a scientific environment, making a statement on what should be left to real science and real scientists to decide.
What prompted Biden to say such a thing? Well, Dr. Lucky Tran, organizer of the March for Science and science communicator at Columbia University, seems to suggest it could be “ME,” where “ME” stands for midterm elections:
If you haven’t heard, mid-term elections will be held in the United States in November, when many congressional, state and local government positions will be decided. When lifting Covid-19 precautions and pretending things are fully back to normal, can some politicians say, “Look, we’ve dealt with the pandemic and everything is back to normal, so vote us November?” From an angle, it seems like everything is fine, but not from a life standpoint. In fact, it may end up making more people uncomfortable and bad. You can’t play with people’s lives and happiness just to get political points.
This doesn’t appear to be just another gaffe from Biden, as he once talked about honoring the “brave and selfishness” of the military or saying “never” a senator from Delaware. No, Biden told Pelley that the pandemic was over, then went on to stress, “We still have a lot of problems with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work. Yes — but the pandemic is over.” Biden didn’t move quickly Correct yourself by saying, “Did I say ‘over’? I really meant Grover from Sesame Street. The pandemic is Grover from Sesame Street.” No, Biden basically went all out, re-emphasized His problematic assertion, even if it goes against, you know, that thing called science.
Speaking of science, what evidence does Biden provide that the pandemic is over? Let’s see, he continued: “If you notice no one is wearing a mask.” Well, that doesn’t tell the truth about the virus and the pandemic. Viruses don’t speak. “Oh, no one is wearing masks, so we have to stop transmission.” Isn’t people not wearing masks mainly because the Biden administration and others have basically lifted all mask requirements? Claiming that the pandemic is over because people aren’t wearing masks is a bit like claiming you don’t have acne because you covered them up with makeup. Or it’s a bit like saying, “Look. Everyone’s peeing in the pool,” after you tell everyone they’re peeing in the pool. Biden may spend most of his time in the Oval Office, but the reasoning is a bit circular, as Mehdi Hasan, host of The Mehdi Hasan Show MSNBCstating:
Again, you can’t simply dismiss this as yet another Biden gaffe. When size doesn’t matter, it’s one thing for Biden to say “there aren’t many senators in Delaware, it’s a small state.” Falsely saying that the Covid-19 pandemic is over is an entirely different matter. When you’re talking about health issues, precision and accuracy are important. Doctors can’t simply say, “Oh, I’m not talking about cancer, I’m saying you have mouth ulcers. Sorry for all that chemotherapy stuff.” Misinformation can lead people to not take proper precautions and get proper care and treatment .This, in turn, could lead to more preventable disease and death because Jorge Caballero, MDThe clinical lecturer in anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine at Stanford Medical School tweeted:
Plus, you can talk about fairness and closing the gap as much as you want. But when you lift Covid-19 precautions across populations, you can end up putting people who are already disadvantaged at greater risk. Dr. Steven W. Thrasherthe journalist who recently published the book The viral underclass: human toll when inequality and disease collidecalling Biden’s premature statement “reckless” and “irresponsible” in the following tweet:
think about it. It may be easy to avoid the virus when you live in a big old house and drive around in your own car, and you have some management positions where you can tell others to stay on the cutting edge, think outside the box, activate, and synergize . But what if you rely on public transportation and almost no one wears a mask these days? What if your workplace leaves you with other people without taking any Covid-19 precautions? What if you live in a cramped area where you can’t avoid other people? In these ways, lifting Covid-19 precautions in general could make things worse for people who are already disadvantaged. This is also similar to what the US says, “We have been the worst in the world in controlling SARS-CoV-2. [SARS-CoV-2]. It’s an idea, let’s make things worse,” as Thrasher points out:
If you remember, back in May, I described Forbes How Science’s editor-in-chief, Dr. Holden Thorp, called the Biden administration’s approach to Covid-19 a “clumsy waving of the checkered flag on a pandemic.” Yes, this sheep description is definitely a compliment to what the government was doing at the time.
That was before Biden prematurely declared that the pandemic was over. This latest development could put everyone at greater risk for Covid-19. This could put socially and economically disadvantaged people at greater risk. And then there are the already medically disadvantaged people mentioned here by journalist Erin Biba:
This isn’t the first time a Biden administration has been premature during this pandemic. The premature relaxation of mask requirements in spring 2021 followed a Delta-fueled Covid-19 surge in summer 2021. More Covid-19 precautions were then eased prematurely in the fall of 2021, which was followed by a Covid-19 Delta surge in November 2021, which was further driven by the emergence of the Omicron variant. Don’t forget the further premature relaxation of mask requirements and other Covid-19 precautions this past spring of 2022, which was followed, surprisingly, by yet another surge of Covid-19. Now you have prematurely declared that the pandemic is over.as i wrote before Forbesanything premature leaves a lot of confusion and a very messy situation.
The timing of Biden’s statement may have been particularly bad. The weather is getting cooler and drier, which could lead to increased transmission of SARS-CoV-2. With the launch of the new bivalent Covid-19 mRNA booster, there are fears that not enough people may be vaccinated because they wrongly believe the pandemic is over. Keep in mind that this may be the first winter since 2019 and most people are not really keeping Covid-19 precautions. Oh, and if you think the new version of SARS-CoV-2 has cancelled itself, you’d be wrong, like a gong in the bedroom. Variants and sub-variants keep popping up every few months, which means we’ll likely have another one this fall. All of this could lead to another surge of Covid-19. With such a message from a Biden administration, can public health experts persuade people to take precautions in the event of another surge? Plus, there’s the possibility of “flu you”. As I recently reported for Forbes, Australia’s flu season has been particularly bad, raising fears of a dual Covid-19 and flu epidemic this fall and winter.
But all of this is scientific stuff, right? Who cares about science when the midterm elections are approaching?