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.