The pandemic is over – or not

President Biden created a bit of a stir when he said in an interview that the pandemic is over but “We still have a problem with covid”. Is he correct? And what exactly does he mean? Public health experts have criticized his remarks as premature, saying that it might discourage people from getting vaccinated or boosted and encourage risky behavior, thus possibly triggering the emergence of yet another variant.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization has also been optimistic, saying that the end “is in sight” but refrained from declaring the pandemic over.

It is undoubtedly true that the public is tired of taking pandemic precautions. Also, many have got covid and that may make them feel that they have paid their dues in some way and are now past it and are entitled to live normal lives, though one can get covid again, and some have had it multiple times. The problem is that the definition of a pandemic is not unambiguous so that there is no marker that will indicate that it is formally over. Hence each person will decide for themselves whether it is effectively over and whether they will continue taking precautions or not, which will be the ultimate determinant of whether the pandemic is ‘over’. But the transition to that state will be gradual.

The numbers of deaths and infections in the US are dropping but still a little too high for me for comfort. The US is averaging 400 deaths and 60,000 new cases per day. Covid is still the fourth leading cause of death in the US, after after heart disease, cancer, and accidents, but ahead of stroke, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and flu. If it reaches the level of flu, that would be a good indicator that the pandemic is over.

So right now, I am still in the pandemic frame of mind and avoid as much as possible indoor public places and if I cannot, wear masks when I enter them. I am not sure when I might give up masking. I will be taking the omicron booster in a couple of weeks and will decide after that depending on the numbers, whether for me personally, the pandemic is over.


  1. anat says

    I just heard from a talk by Trevor Bedford that a new variant is sweeping through India. It has mutations in the spike protein that makes it less vulnerable to antibodies raised in response to current variants. This game of whack-a-mole is never ending.

    My son got Covid a week ago, my husband (who works from home) got it from him. I’m OK so far, and we are trying to make it so that this remains the case -- we each use separate rooms, mask in the shared areas of the house. I only remove the mask in a room that was well-aired after closing its door. I have an appointment for the omicron booster next week, I wonder if I manage to stay healthy until then (and after as well, of course, as the protection offered by the booster takes time to kick in).

  2. says

    I suggest you look up the respective definitions of “epidemic”, “pandemic”, and “endemic”. A decent argument can be made that we are now in the “endemic” stage.

  3. billseymour says

    I always wear my N95 whenever I leave my apartment, but I almost never see anyone else around here taking any precautions at all.  Yes, it’s Missouri’s Second Congressional District; but they can’t all be Trumpistas; and given Biden’s recent comment, I guess it’s not really a left-vs.-right issue any more.

    I got my fourth Pfizer jab just a couple of monts ago, and my doctor recommended that I wait until January for the next booster.

  4. seachange says

    It is now endemic even though it is still murderous? People are still talking about it which they mostly weren’t doing when #4 was HIV?

    I have gotten my ba5 jab, a pfiser on top of the moderna which was on top of two janssens. Of the three kinds, this one I found the most exhausting. Rick is waiting for a time when he can go on a weekend for his ba5 booster. I have also gotten my first monkeypox bleb, he got his a week ago. This one is very itchy.

  5. anat says

    seachange @4, endemic doesn’t mean ‘not murderous’. It means ‘(of a disease or condition) regularly found among particular people or in a certain area’. Not going away. Part of the normal state of things, going forward. And it certainly does not mean we shouldn’t be doing anything about it, but that we should consider it in whatever plans we make, potentially for the rest of our lives.

  6. eliza422 says

    I’m still masking in public, and I just got the new variant vaccine a couple of weeks ago. I will be masking at least through the end of the year, and maybe beyond that. I’m increasingly alone in my masking, but I still haven’t gotten COVID and I’m trying my hardest not to get it.

  7. Don Fearn says

    I started masking in public as soon as it was advised, and I intend to continue doing that for the rest of my life. That’s because since I started, I not only haven’t had Covid, but I also haven’t had ANY respiratory illness since then and I certainly don’t miss the nasty colds I would get four or five times a year. For that alone, it’s worth the slight hassle of masking in public . . . .

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