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(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden turned heads Sunday night when he declared the COVID-19 pandemic “over,” even saying the United States still had a “problem” with the virus.
“The pandemic is over,” he said during an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes.”
Biden continued, “We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still working a lot on it. It’s – but the pandemic is over.”
His comments come weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidelines for unvaccinated people exposed to COVID.
Data from the federal health agency shows that hundreds of COVID-19-related deaths are being recorded every day and about 14,000 Americans died from the virus last month.
Public health experts told ABC News that this pandemic isn’t over yet, and Biden’s comments may have been a bit premature.
“The pandemic is clearly not over,” Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, told ABC News. “I would highlight the first [reason] that’s the number of deaths per year.”
The United States has recorded more than 223,000 deaths so far this year, according to CDC data.
“That’s several times higher than a typical flu season,” Chin-Hong said, averaging around 35,000 deaths per year from the 2010-11 flu season to the 2019-20 flu season, according to a ABC News analysis of the CDC. The data.
He said if the annual number of deaths from COVID continued to remain high, “it would be much higher than diabetes and other respiratory diseases. This number is not insignificant at all.”
As of September 15, the United States has recorded 655 deaths from COVID-19 and a seven-day rolling average of 391, according to the CDC.
This is the highest seven-day average reported in the country since September 4.
Additionally, an average of 60,000 Americans test positive every day. Although it is not as high as the average of 129,000 recorded during the summer, it is also not as low as the average of 25,000 recorded in the spring.
“My concern about all of this is that when you say the pandemic is over, it becomes synonymous with non-disease,” Dr. Perry Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, told ABC News. “But we do know that there is a very prevalent disease in the United States that is making people sick and still killing people. This could be troubling due to the increase in respiratory illnesses in the fall.”
At a press conference last Thursday, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the end of the pandemic was “in sight”.
“Last week, the number of weekly deaths reported by Covid-19 was the lowest since March 2020,” Ghebreyesus said. “We have never been in a better position to end the pandemic. We are not there yet, but the end is in sight.”
The WHO continues to classify COVID-19 as a public health emergency of international concern and the United States continues to declare the virus a public health emergency, but experts say the country is likely transitioning from a pandemic to an endemic phase.
“So endemic means sort of normal amounts of cases…for the foreseeable future, COVID is here to stay and we should expect COVID cases,” said Dr. Dana Mazo, infectious disease specialist and clinical associate professor. of Medicine at NYU Langone. Health, told ABC News. “What we see is that COVID is here and we all have to learn to live with it.”
She added, “And I think that’s more important than talking about terminology, it’s more important that people understand that COVID hasn’t gone away. It’s unlikely to go away completely anytime soon.”
This is especially important as the United States moves into the fall and colder weather months, when cases traditionally begin to rise and new variants emerge.
Experts worry that people aren’t following mitigation measures and that states and cities won’t be willing to reinstate measures in the event of a surge.
“We’re not as bad as we were in the past, which is a good thing,” said Dr. Julia Raifman, assistant professor of health law, policy and management at Boston University School of Public. Health, which searches at the state level. political responses to the pandemic, told ABC News. “But I remain very concerned that we are unprepared for waves of new variants. And we will likely have a high, almost entirely avoidable cumulative toll.”
“Just being ready to activate them when there’s a surge of a new variant will be very helpful, but there’s no preparation for that right now,” Raifman continued.
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