September 21, 2022 – President Joe Biden He says the epidemic is over. The World Health Organization says that The end is in sight. Many of us would rather talk about almost anything else, and even New York City has abandoned most of its COVID protocols.
Biden’s claim (submitted to reporter Scott Bailey on Sunday 60 minutes) caused controversy about COVID-19 to explode again, although he tried twice now to soften it. It has alarmed an already divided public, fueled extensive coverage of television news, and prompted critics to take one side.
But for many, a pandemic No ‘ending’ can be declared when the average number of new cases in the United States alone is 71,000 and more than 400 deaths per day, and there are 500,000 cases and nearly 2,000 deaths per day worldwide.
Biden’s comment divided experts on medicine and public health. Some strongly disagree that the pandemic is over, pointing out that COVID-19 remains a public health emergency in the United States, is still considered a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, and, most importantly, the virus continues to kill more than 400 people a day. in the United States
Others point out that most of the country is protected by vaccination, infection, or a combination of them, at least for the time being. They say the time is right to declare the end of the pandemic and acknowledge what much of society has already decided. Feelings are perhaps best captured in a file Controversial new New York’s COVID health slogan: “You Do You.”
In fact, a new poll from media site Axios and its partner, Ipsos, was released on September 13, It found that 46% of Americans They say they are back to their pre-pandemic lives – the highest rate since the pandemic began. Meanwhile, 57% said they remain at least somewhat concerned about the virus.
“How can one country say the epidemic is over?” asked Eric Topol, MD, executive vice president of Scripps Research and editor-in-chief of Medscape (WebMD’s sister site for medical professionals).
In Topol’s view, it is not over yet, and there must be a balance between protecting public health and allowing individuals to decide how to manage their lives based on risk tolerance.
“You can’t just let the audience down and say, ‘It’s all up to you. “He sees this approach as an abdication of responsibility, which could cause an already hesitant public about getting the latest vaccine, the bivalent vaccine that became available earlier this month, to forget.
Topol coined the phrase “COVID surrender” in May when the US was in the middle of a wave of infections from the BA.2 variant of Corona Virus. He used the phrase again this month after the White House said COVID-19 vaccines would soon become a once-a-year need, like the annual flu shot.
Topol now sees hope, mitigates the recurring facts. “We’re on our way down, in terms of the spread of the virus,” he says. “We’ll have two quiet months, but then we’ll be back in the cycle again.” He and others monitor emerging variables, including BA.2.75.2, which is More portable from BA.5.
The White House admitted this in May when I warned You reach 100 million infections this fall and the chance of a significant increase in deaths. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington projects that about 760,000 people now have COVID-19 in the United States, that number will rise to more than 2.48 million by the end of the year, the group warns.
“From a public health perspective, it’s clear we’re still in a pandemic,” says Catelyn Getelina, PhD, a health policy expert who publishes Your Local Epidemiologist, a consumer science newsletter. “The question is, what stage of the pandemic are we in?” It is not an emergency, where the Navy Rolling around in ships [as it did to help hospitals cope with the volume of COVID patients in 2020.]”
The biggest problem with this comment [by Biden] Ho, are we normalizing all those deaths? Are we comfortable leaving SARS-CoV-2 as the third leading cause of death? “I was disappointed with this comment,” she says.
Jitellina says that even if people switch to individual decision-making from a public health perspective, most people still need to think of others when determining their coronavirus precautions. In her personal life, she constantly takes into account how her activities affect those around her. For example, she says, “We’ll see my grandfather, and everyone else is getting antigen tested before.”
Gitellina says that while younger, healthier people may be able to safely ease up on their precautions, they still need to be aware of the people around them who are at higher risk. We cannot place the entire burden on the weak alone. Our layers of protection aren’t perfect.”
Like Topol, Jetelina suggests taking conditions into account. It recommends small steps to collectively reduce transmission and protect the vulnerable. “Get the mask” before entering a high-risk environment, and “Get an antigen test before going to the nursing home.”
The worst is behind us?
“The job hasn’t been done yet,” says William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease expert and professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. If he could rewrite Biden’s comments, saying, “He could have said something like ‘the worst is behind us,'” citing the new phrase. Serum To increase enthusiasm for it and pledge to continue progress.
Schaffner, too, admits that much of society has decided on some level that the pandemic is over. “The vast majority of people have taken off their masks, gone to concerts and restaurants again, and they want to work in the community,” he says.
He understands this, but suggests that one of the public health messages would be to remind people who are particularly at risk, such as adults over 65 and those with a certain disease, to continue to take extra steps, hide and distance, especially with the gears of flu season over.
Schaffner says public health messages should remind others of the vulnerable population, so those who continue to wear masks won’t have a hard time by those who have abandoned them.
Focus on the most vulnerable groups
Paul Offit, MD, an infectious disease physician and director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, says Biden’s statement “could have been better formulated.” But he says things are different now than they were in early 2020.
“We are in a different place. Now most of the population is protected from severe diseases [either by vaccination, infection, or a combination]. “
Offit says the impact of this protection really does play into the requirements, or the lack thereof. At the start of the pandemic, “we imposed a COVID vaccine in our hospital [for employees]Now, the hospital will not order the new bivalent vaccine.
He agrees that the focus to move forward must be at most weak. Furthermore, he says, people should make their own decisions based on individual circumstances and their risk tolerance.
One of the important questions looming, Offit says, is for scientists to find out how long to protect people with vaccination and/or previous infection. He says that protection from hospitalization and severe illness is the goal of vaccination, which is the only reasonable goal in his opinion and not the eradication of the virus.
Biden is right
The opposing view is taken by Lena Wynne, an emergency medicine physician, professor of health policy at George Washington University and a frequent media commentator, who says Biden should not back down from his comment that the pandemic is over. “he is right.”
She says the United States has entered an endemic phase, as evidenced by social measures – many people have gone back to school, work and travel – as well as policy measures, with many sites relaxing or eliminating mandates and other requirements.
She says there is disagreement about scientific standards. Some say that more than 400 deaths per day is still too high to qualify as an endemic pandemic. We will not eliminate the Corona virus. We need to live with it, just like HIV, hepatitis and influenza. Just because it’s not a pandemic [in her view] It does not mean that the level of disease is acceptable or that COVID is no longer with us.”
Wayne does not see taking a public health versus personal perspective as an either or healthy choice. “Just because something is no longer a pandemic doesn’t mean we stop caring about it,” she says. but I think [many] People live in the real world. They see family and friends back to play dates, go to restaurants and not wear masks. COVID has become a danger just like so many other dangers they face in their lives.”
Wayne says the tension between public health and an individual’s health persists and will not go away. It applies to all health issues. Shifting from public concern for public health to individual decisions “is what we expect and must happen.”
She also noted the cost of anti-COVID measures, including closed schools and businesses, and their impact on mental health and the economy, as well as another, less discussed cost: the impact on confidence in public health.
It says continuing to demand action against COVID-19 when cases decline, may further erode confidence in public health authorities. With the recent announcement of New York State public health emergency After finding the polio virus in sewage samples, Wayne wondered, “What happens when we say, ‘Get your child against polio?'” “