Never mind the corpses, the pandemic is over!

Yesterday, I participated in a mundane committee meeting, one where we were making decisions on the distribution of in-house grant funds. It was fine, there were a fair number of really good proposals, we didn’t have to struggle over funding anyone’s work. However, at the end, someone made a comment about how we didn’t have to deal with COVID accountability anymore, and we weren’t going to have to provide extra money for COVID, because the pandemic was over.

My heart sank at that. People actually believe we beat the virus because a politician announced that we had. I’ve got news for those guys.

On Monday, the White House announced that it will let the Covid-related public health emergency declarations expire on May 11, 2023. Ashish Jha, Biden’s national Covid response coordinator, framed the announcement in true “accentuate-the-positive,” “we’re back to normal” fashion, tweeting that the emergency was being lifted because the country was “in a better place and “getting through the winter without a big surge or run on hospitals.” He even threw in the Biden administration’s favorite line: “We have the tools to manage this virus.”

Jha can tweet whatever he likes, but as I’ve said again and again, the numbers don’t lie. As Alyssa Bilinski and Kathryn Thompson from the Brown School of Public Health, along with Ezekiel Emanuel from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, wrote in a letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association in November: “The US continued to experience significantly higher Covid-19 and excess all-cause mortality compared with peer countries during 2021 and early 2022, a difference accounting for 150,000 to 470,000 deaths.” Last week, more people died of Covid than perished in the Twin Towers on 9/11.

Don’t be fooled. The pandemic is not over. This is all about rolling back Medicaid coverage and little things, like not having to pay for the accommodations for COVID prevention that professors are expected to make. It’s about fostering political delusions — ‘vote for me, I ended COVID!’. It’s about unleashing the greedy fucks at pharmaceutical companies.

Lastly, both Pfizer and Moderna are hiking their prices on Covid vaccines. And this isn’t a little uptick in the price tag—both Pfizer and Moderna are proposing 400 percent increases. Again, this is going to put vaccines out of the reach of many low-income uninsured Americans, dissuade others from getting the jab, and sock insured people with potential premium increases as insurance companies pass on the pain to the rest of us. The White House has issued strongly worded statements about the price hikes, but many have called for bolder action against this predatory behavior. As of now, there are crickets from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

We failed to control the pandemic because the only thing we were committed to was half-assing it. The policy of neglect and denial will continue as thousands will die. They’re mostly old people, though, so who cares, and we’re all going to close our eyes and pretend long COVID isn’t a thing. We’ll just keep on riding the roller coaster.



  1. raven says

    …“in a better place and “getting through the winter without a big surge or run on hospitals.” …

    That isn’t the least bit true.

    In November in my area, for a while the hospitals were on “divert”.
    “When in diversion, a hospital is telling ambulances to take non-critical care patients elsewhere because they are full. The hospitals still accept all walk-in patients.”

    They were all full of respiratory virus patients. To be sure, this time around it was RSV, influenza, and Covid-19 virus.
    The divert was sort of pointless anyway. All the local hospitals were full so there was no place to take the diverted ambulances. And, if you are a non-critical patient, then why are you in an ambulance anyway?

  2. Matt G says

    Wait, poor people won’t be able to get vaccinated?? Then hell yes I’ll get vaccinated!! #owningthelibs4ever!!

  3. Bruce says

    On the bright side, at least we all now have the perspective to realize that 3000 innocent deaths on 9/11 was really no big deal, and certainly not any justification for any Global War on Terror.
    Haha – I kid. People dying is irrelevant, Biden and Republicans agree.
    Now that Biden has knuckled under to the Republicans, will they stop opposing him?
    We can ignore death, but unity through surrender is still just a fantasy dream of Biden’s.

  4. raven says

    He even threw in the Biden administration’s favorite line: “We have the tools to manage this virus.”

    That isn’t true either.

    Most of the monoclonal antibodies have stopped working because the new variants have amino acid sequences different in the areas they were targeting (epitopes). This is part of what antigenic escape by the virus means, it changes its amino acid sequence to evade…the immune system.

    The solution here is obvious. Make some more monoclonal antibodies. We did it once, we can do it again. That is what your immune system will do.

    And, the drug discovery and development industry really dropped the ball on Covid-19 virus.
    They made a few drugs that worked OK if not great i.e. Remdesivir, molnupiravir, and one that worked better, Paxlovid. And then they just stopped looking.
    We have something like 28 drugs from 7 or 8 classes against HIV, which has made it a survivable disease. The patients and market were there so the drug companies make tens of billions a year from HIV drugs.

    We need more Covid-19 antivirals. This is a big virus genome so there should be lots of targets. If for no other reason then someday the virus will evolve resistance to the ones we have.
    The patients and market are there.
    Covid-19 is ever mutating and is never going to go away. It will become an annual winter virus like the flu.
    I have no idea why the biotech companies are missing in action on this one.

    And oh yeah, we could use some better vaccines that don’t stop working well in 6 months. Here, this is easier said than done. The mRNA vaccines are the best we can come up with. If we knew how to make better ones, we would already be doing it.
    But there are a lot of ideas on how to improve the Covid-19 virus vaccines. For one thing, they are all right now targeted at the S protein which makes antigenic escape easy. A vaccine with two or more different protein targets might work a lot better.

  5. Artor says

    My friend is a university professor like PZ. He sees the waves of covid sweeping through his students, and is seeing another surge right now.

  6. Matt G says

    I teach at a small, private school in New York. As of this morning, 20% of our students have covid. We may have picked it up on a ski trip to New Jersey. We were on a bus – unmasked – for about 90 minutes each way (Sunday and Tuesday). I’m surprised our numbers aren’t higher.

  7. torcuato says

    Oh come on! Please read carefully the “Wheeee!” rollercoaster graph. “Hospital admissions with Covid-19″ WITH! It is well known that everyone admitted to a hospital is tested for Covid, evey if they went because of a broken leg. Estimates are that about 1/3 of the admissions with Covid are because of Covid. That would mean that currently the number of hospital admissions in England because of Covid is around 200. Oh so scary! Stop the fearmongering. For all practical purposes, and for the overwhelming majority of us, the pandemic is indeed over.

  8. raven says

    That would mean that currently the number of hospital admissions in England because of Covid is around 200.

    That is per day.
    That is a lot for a viral infection.

    Here in the USA, the 7 day average per day of people dead from the Covid-19 virus is 400.
    That is also a high number.
    It has held steady for a long time so that comes out to 146,000 dead a year.
    That is a lot. For comparison:
    We are on track to have maybe 20,000 flu deaths this year (which is a bad year) so 7.3 times as many Covid-19 virus deaths as the flu.

    You are wrong, callous, and stupid. IIRC, you’ve said stupid stuff about just pretending the pandemic doesn’t exist before.
    It would be amusing if there weren’t a lot of sick, permanently disabled, and dead people lying around from the Covid-19 virus.

  9. robro says

    raven @ #8 — I sure some people will find any excuse to be upbeat as long they or theirs aren’t dying. And, as you suggest, it’s not just COVID…tho certainly that…but flu and other respiratory diseases. I had pneumonia several years ago (before COVID) and although it kind of saved my life (they discovered heart problems) I don’t want to go through that again at 74.

  10. hemidactylus says

    @4 raven
    Here’s an article addressing the near or not so near future of COVID vaccines. Seems more prospective than meaty:

    And this dovetails with the whole it’s less alarming now assumptions:

    “COVID-19 is no longer seen as the all-encompassing emergency it once was, and so developers and regulators will move more slowly compared with the breakneck pace of the first-generation vaccines, adds Saville. “We shouldn’t rush these through, because these need to be the types of vaccine that will be durable in the long term for COVID-19.”

    The self-amplifying replicase containing vaccine might raise alarm bells amongst some. I was also wondering if the Walter Reed work had stalled.

    Plus the current mRNAs seem to be the basket most of the eggs are in so good luck with that market share thing.

    I’m not as alarmed as in 2020 since the shots seem to have helped a lot for those who take them. Should at least acknowledge some progress was made, but there should be more impetus for advances that can fight the virus variants harder.

  11. birgerjohansson says

    Get a lot of trebuchets and catapult the decaying corpses at congress.
    With 500 dead per day, some of them are bound to hit the windows and fall down on the floor of Congress, reminding the idiots of reality.

  12. raven says

    I’m not as alarmed as in 2020 since the shots seem to have helped a lot for those who take them

    Well sure.

    They probably saved my life. I’ve had 4 shots and have never gotten the Covid-19 virus yet.
    I’m a Boomer and the virus harvests Boomers often.

    We’ve discovered that the hard part of the vaccines is actually getting people to go out and get them. A lot of people will get one dose. Almost as many will get two doses.
    After that it falls off by a lot.
    The Chinese needed at least three doses for their vaccines to work well. They had a hard time getting many of them to take that number.

    More durable and effective vaccines would go a long way towards driving down the Covid-19 virus case load.

  13. René says

    For a moment I thought (#4) Raven had a positive mutation (paragraphs!, run-on sentences!). Alas, they devolved back in #8. {/nasty}

  14. says

    @13 rene – people who comment here are focused on substance and communicating accurately. We don’t consult the MLA style sheet before commenting. The SUBSTANCE of what raven and PZ and others write is what is important.
    I’m not about to ignore the FACT that the CDC just reported there are still 400 DEATHS PER WEEK in the united states alone. My organization member have 5 vaccinations, still mask up, avoid crowds of drooling sheopel. With my risk factors, if I get covid I’ll probably die or be permanently disabled. As our Heroic Heretic says: “I have an unyielding aversion to being murdered by maskless, mouth-breathing, anti-vaxx morons!
    It would be poetic justice if torcuato were to be infected and DIE.

  15. asclepias says

    Given that my parents are in their 70s and my sister is immunocompromised, I will continue masking, thank you very much!

  16. raven says

    I’m not about to ignore the FACT that the CDC just reported there are still 400 DEATHS PER WEEK in the united states alone.

    Off by a factor of 9.

    The 400 deaths is per day, USA.
    The 7 day average refers to a 7 day moving average which is used to smooth out the day to day variability in reporting Covid-19 deaths. So, daily death toll as an average of daily death tolls for 7 days.

    The actual number of deaths reported in the last week according to the CDC was 3, 756.

  17. robro says

    If there was one outcome to be hoped for from the cost spike for COVID vaccines, it would be that our government would realize that pharma and health insurance are now and have been for decades funding their party with enormous government grants to develop essential, life-saving products and then inflating the price of those products to customers who pay the taxes to fund those grants. Because of an activity with a non-profit my partner is involved with, she has to take a self-admin but lab processed COVID test every week or two. So far we haven’t had to pay anything, but I’ve seen the amount the lab charges our insurance. It’s over $300. That’s for a tube, a cotton swab, a few drops of something in the tube, and probably a quick analysis at the lab.

    With the end of emergency status for COVID , we may get hit with the cost of that test, if the non-profit keeps requiring it. That will probably end my partner’s involvement.

  18. says

    @6 raven – Thanks for the correction, I remembered incorrectly. Too many people and organizations are so complacent and casual about death.

  19. says

    @17 robro – I am sorry to hear about the needless anxiety you and your partner face due to the horrible, murderous for-profit healthcare system.

  20. moonslicer says

    @ Torcuato #7

    “It is well known that everyone admitted to a hospital is tested for Covid, evey if they went because of a broken leg. Estimates are that about 1/3 of the admissions with Covid are because of Covid. That would mean that currently the number of hospital admissions in England because of Covid is around 200.”

    Please enlighten me. If someone is admitted to a hospital “with” Covid, but “because of” a broken leg, does that mean they don’t have Covid? Does that mean they won’t get sick with Covid later on? Does it mean they can’t pass Covid on to others, including someone who’s immuno-compromised, like me? But suppose they didn’t break their leg and so didn’t even go to the hospital to begin with, would that mean that they don’t have Covid? Would it be better for them if they broke their leg or if they didn’t?

  21. Oggie: Mathom says

    Yup. The pandemic is over.

    I went up to visit my elderly parents and my sister. Sister got sick on Saturday. I started feeling ill on Monday. That evening, we were all drinking some Japanese whisky (really good, kinda fruity) and all three of us looked at each other and wondered, aloud, why the whisky tasted bad. So we tried some Talisker. Bad. So we tried some jug handle MacGregor. Bad.

    The next day, Mom and Dad got sick. Sister decided to go ahead and do a covid test. Yup. Positive. So were Mom and Dad. And I was positive, too. My doctor sent a scrip up to the local pharmacy for the anti-viral. I started taking it Tuesday evening. By Saturday (I drove home on Wednesday (very careful, masking, avoiding people, washing and disinfecting at every stop (and there were lots of them — loose bowels (and, despite stopping at every rest area, I still arrived home in different pants than I left in))) I was feeling, if not good, at least close to better.

    Then I got hit with the rebound. Same symptoms. Even worse.

    Today, to celebrate finally feeling better (except for the dry cough (which keeps going, and going, and going)), I decided to make some bread to go with the ragu Bolognese I am making for dinner. And my 25-year-old KitchenAid stand mixer died. The gears shredded themselves and the motor burned (house still smells bad). That mixer owes me nothing. Sad to see it go. It was Ferrari red.

    Luckily, Wife and I are in good shape financially (especially since OWCP-FECA finally sent the paper admitting I was no longer getting the workers-comp payments to OPM so I can start my OPM pension in a month or two), I went and picked up a new, but smaller, one. Hopefully it will be the last mixer I ever buy (I mostly cook for two, now, so smaller bread batches are normal). Bread came out fantastic — only five ingredients.

    2 1/3 cup bread flower
    1/3 cup malted whole wheat flower
    1 Tablespoonspoonspoonspoonspoons of yeast (That <—- is courtesy of the word suggest that shows up as I type — I’m gonna leave it there just because)
    2 teaspoons salt
    About 1 cup of water

    Mix it all together. Knead the hell out of it (I need the mixer to knead) until the dough feels alive. Cover it and let it double in size (depends on what kind of yeast you use). Punch it down, make it into two batons, and, when they are starting to rise, put them in a cold oven and start the oven at 375F. Cook until nicely browned, turning the cooking sheet occasionally.

    Tastes far better then five ingredient bread should taste.

    If you don’t have malted flower, don’t worry about it. It’ll take a little longer to rise. It won’t have quite the full taste but enough herbed olive oil and you won’t notice.

  22. silvrhalide says

    @4 The tools don’t work as well as advertised and are becoming less effective with the passage of time.
    “Also, one study released this summer found little to no benefit [from Paxlovid] for younger adults when looking at some 100,000 patients in Israel. While researchers found the drug reduced hospitalization by roughly 75% when given soon after infection to people 65-plus, it saw no measurable benefit for people ages 40 to 64.”
    “Still, the drug isn’t right for everyone, including people taking certain medications such as some cholesterol-lowering drugs and blood thinners.”
    So basically the older members of the population, who would likely benefit from Paxlovid are also more likely to be contraindicated because of their daily medications. Not exactly a great solution.

  23. silvrhalide says

    @12 Define “working well” as regarding Sinovax and Sinopharm, as both have less than a 50% effectiveness rate (but WHO approved them for use anyway). And those were the numbers for the original Covid–who even knows if either of them are effective at all against delta, omicron, XXB, etc. It’s a safe bet the Chinese government won’t release the real rates of effectiveness.

  24. says

    torcuato @7 blithered thusly:

    Estimates are that about 1/3 of the admissions with Covid are because of Covid.

    That means the total number of in hospital with COVID (and thus potentially spreading it to others IN THE HOSPITAL) is THREE TIMES AS HIGH as the number of people who actually go to hospital because of it. That does NOT support your assertion that “the pandemic is indeed over.” In fact, it flatly contradicts your chosen conclusion, and strongly implies it is actually WORSE than it currently looks, not better. If you can’t see this, then you’re AT LEAST as callous and stupid as raven says you are.

  25. Bruce Fuentes says

    The denial will continue until people are dying in the streets and the economy is destroyed. Even than a large % will continue to deny. Millions more will have to die.

  26. Oggie: Mathom says

    John Morales:

    I fucking hate this stupid ‘I know what you are going to type so I fill it in anyway’ feature. I have not been able to find out how to turn it off.

  27. Howard Brazee says

    I understand. But I wonder what criteria to use to determine when a pandemic is over. Is the Flu pandemic over?

  28. rorschach says

    Deaths from Covid certainly are a better metric than 7-day incidences, but they are still not a great metric because they depend on correct notification by those doctors who fill out the death certificates. Wastewater viral load is a better parameter, and a leading one too, especially since this has now neatly decoupled from the incidences, but for some reason these numbers are hard to come by.
    So yes, the Covid pandemic is not over, but it is not about deaths or the number of mild primary infections, it’s about the 10% who develop Long Covid and are never the same again, are lost to the employment market, are bedbound, die of heart attacks or strokes month after their mild primary infection. This is the real tragedy.

  29. torcuato says

    @25 Raging Bee:
    Maybe I am stupid, but I have to ask you to explain your math to me. What does “three times as high” mean? Three times what? Suppose there are 300 patients with Covid in the hospital. They were admitted, the hospital tested them, they had Covid. There were always 300 patients with Covid, period. It’s not like the hospital is saying: “We admitted 100 patients because of Covid, therefore there must be 300 patients total with Covid. Quick! Find the other 200!”
    To your other point, about people “spreading” the virus. That word always makes me laugh. The virus has already spread to every corner of the world. There’s no “stopping the spread.” Covid-19 is a highly contagious (especially the latest variants) airborne virus. There’s no stopping it, be it with half-assed measures or with draconian measures. What do you expect the whole world to do? What China was doing up to a couple of months ago? For how long? What’s the end game? Covid will be with us for a loooong time. For the vast majority of us, if you are vaccinated and boosted, catching it won’t be much worse than a bad cold. And people are well aware of this. Unless a more deadly strain shows up, there’s no going back to lockdowns, mask mandates, or any other extreme measures you can think of.