Health Experts, GOP Answer Biden’s Claim on Pandemic


Update: Add Anthony Fauci to the list of people contradicting President Biden’s assertion that the COVID-19 pandemic is over. Fauci, Biden’s top COVID adviser, said Monday that the US is “not where we need to be if we’re going to be able to, quote, ‘live with the virus,’ because we know we’re not going to eradicate it.” The comment came during a discussion with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Hill reports, and it’s not clear whether Fauci was responding directly to Biden’s earlier statement. Fauci did acknowledge, per Politico, that the pandemic is “heading in the right direction.” Our original story from Monday follows:

President Biden is hearing it from all sides after he declared the coronavirus pandemic over in an interview that aired Sunday night. “We still have a problem with COVID,” Biden said on 60 Minutes, adding, “But the pandemic is over.” Several public health officials disagreed and said such a pronouncement could hurt efforts to combat the disease, the Wall Street Journal reports. “It’s completely off base,” said Dr. Eric Topol of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, a medical research facility. “It’s an illusion. We have millions of people with long COVID and no vaccine that blocks transmission.”

The Biden administration needs Congress, which it’s asked for another $22.4 billion for its COVID response, to buy into the urgency of the effort. Without that money, the White House has said 100 million people in the US could contract the disease this fall and winter. And there’s always the risk of the virus mutating into a still more dangerous version. Republicans jumped on Biden’s statement. Sen. Ron Johnson tweeted that there’s then no need for vaccine mandates. Jerome Adams, who was Surgeon General under former President Donald Trump, posted, “I understand what he was trying to say but such rhetoric is hurtful, dangerous and scientifically untrue.”

Some health experts pointed out that the outbreak has changed to the point where declaring partial victory might be understandable. “For most Americans, COVID-19 is no longer dominating their lives and is now being understood as another infectious disease risk, more akin to the flu than a dire deadly disease,” said Dr. Leana Wen of George Washington University. But the World Health Organization hasn’t said the pandemic is over quite yet. And though it’s eased COVID restrictions, neither has the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, per NPR. Dr. Megan Ranney of Brown University’s school of public health tweeted that the pandemic is different now but—given those 400 deaths a day—not over. “I call malarkey,” she wrote. (Biden had a rebound case himself this summer.)