Two years since COVID-19 was first reported in the U.S., the virus has reportedly claimed over 6.5 million lives globally, including over 1 million American lives. According to Johns Hopkins research, it continues to kill an average of 400 Americans per day. Despite this, the American government and much of the general public have adopted a flippant stance on the virus’s impact, the most recent example coming from president Biden.
In a Sept. 18 “60 minutes” interview, when asked by CBS correspondent Scott Pelley if the pandemic was over, Biden replied “the pandemic is over, we still have a problem with COVID, we’re still doing a lot of work on it, but the pandemic is over.” He went on to say, “If you notice, no one is wearing masks, everybody seems to be in pretty good shape.”
Biden’s position is echoed by nearly one-third of Americans who, according to recent polls, also consider the pandemic to be “over.” The loosening of mandates across the country suggests that many Americans are eager to move on to a post-pandemic way of life.
Biden’s claim is hypocritical when considering how Democrats previously criticized Republicans for their passive response to the pandemic. In August 2020, House Democrats even created a report titled “A Failure to Lead: The Trump Administration’s Disastrous Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic,” in which they argued that Trump’s rhetoric directly contributed to the rapid spread of COVID-19.
Earlier this month, the CDC approved an updated booster shot that is said to combat new, more transmittable variants. In order to secure these boosters as well as treatment and personal protective equipment (PPE), the White House is reportedly requesting $22.4 billion from Congress for the fiscal year of 2023. If Biden is publicly declaring that COVID-19 is “over,” why should Congress feel any inclination to approve such a large sum of funds for its relief?
Not only are his claims contradictory, they also ostracize those who are particularly vulnerable to the virus. People of color continue to be at a higher risk regarding COVID-19, with new CDC data revealing that Black and Latine people are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 than white people.
Likewise, individuals over 65 and those with underlying medical conditions are at an increased risk of death. The CDC found that the COVID-19 mortality rate is 60 times higher for people aged 65-74 than those aged 18-29.
Biden’s claim does hold some merit given the strides the U.S. has taken since the start of the pandemic: the majority of Americans are vaccinated, the unemployment rate has shrunk, and the death rate has notably declined. According to the CDC’s data tracker, approximately 67.8% of the general public are vaccinated with the primary series of doses, and 79.5% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose. Additionally, studies continue to legitimize the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.
While it’s evident that today, Americans are in a far different position than they were in 2020, the virus is still a very real threat. In 2022 alone, nearly 225,000 Americans have lost their lives to the disease, making it clear that while we may be “done” with the pandemic, it is still most certainly not done with us. Writing off the virus entirely is a careless move that complicates current efforts to stop its spread. A premature celebration of the virus’s end endangers Americans and can reverse the progress made up to this point.