By Ayana Archie, NPR
President Biden said in a 60 Minutes interview Sunday that the COVID-19 pandemic is a thing of the past.
"The pandemic is over," he said. "We still have a problem with COVID. We're still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over. If you notice, no one's wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape, and so I think it's changing, and I think [the Detroit auto show resuming after three years] is a perfect example of it."
His remarks came as Biden's own administration seeks an additional $22.4 billion from Congress to keep funding the fight against COVID, and as the United States continues to see hundreds of related deaths every day.
So are we really in the clear?
The National Institutes of Health defines the term as "an epidemic of disease, or other health condition, that occurs over a widespread area (multiple countries or continents) and usually affects a sizable part of the population."
Globally, there have been about 612 million cases of coronavirus. The number of new daily cases peaked in January for many countries, including the U.S. (806,987), France (366,554) and India (311,982), according to Our World in Data, an international organization of scientists.
We've come a long way since then — on Saturday, there were about 493,000 cases worldwide — but there are still thousands of cases being detected every day, and many estimates could be off, as many cases are going unreported.
From Aug. 16 to Sept. 17, there were 19.4 million new cases worldwide, with some of the most significant increases happening in Japan (29%), Taiwan (20%) and Hong Kong (19%). The U.S. had a 3% increase in cases during that time period, equivalent to 2.5 million incidents.
In Japan, there is a daily cap on the number of people who can arrive in the country and individual tourist visits have been banned, though those guidelines are expected to be reversed soon. Additionally, on Sep. 7, the country lifted its requirement to take a test within 72 hours of landing in Japan, as long as you are vaccinated, according to Nikkei.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also eased up on COVID-19 restrictions, such as issuing the same guidance to both vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans and shortening the quarantine period from 10 days to five. Though, it has not publicly declared the end of the pandemic.
Public health experts weren't impressed with the president's language. Dr. Megan Ranney, who heads Brown University's school of public health, used one of Biden's favorite words against him, calling the idea that the pandemic is over "malarkey."
Is the pandemic DIFFERENT? Sure.— Megan Ranney MD MPH 🌻 (@meganranney) September 19, 2022
We have vaccines & infection-induced immunity. We have treatments. We have tests (while they last). The fatality rate is way down. And so we respond to it differently.
But over?! With 400 deaths a day?!
I call malarkey. https://t.co/KpLUfeMgBj
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden's top medical adviser and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview Monday that "We are 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."
He added he expects to see many more variants arise.
"How we respond and how we're prepared for the evolution of these variants is going to depend on us and that gets to the other conflicting aspect of this — is the lack of a uniform acceptance of the interventions that are available to us in this country," he said.
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