Boston Globe- More negative reaction today over President Biden declaring on “60 Minutes” that the coronavirus pandemic is over, with public health officials around the country slapping their foreheads in frustration.
My favorite reaction was from Dr. Megan Ranney, academic dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, who borrowed one of Biden’s own favorite sayings: “I call malarkey.”
“Is the pandemic DIFFERENT? Sure,” she tweeted after Biden’s TV interview. After citing several reasons the country is better off now, including immunity from vaccinations and previous infections, testing, and treatments, she continued, “But over?! With 400 deaths a day?! I call malarkey.”
Biden’s ridiculous off-the-cuff remark is going to make battling this disease exponentially more difficult.
First, it’s going to set back efforts to persuade doubters to get boosters (or even first vaccines), especially with winter coming. The administration is going to have to expend a lot of time and energy once again telling people to get shots and to be careful because now those folks have another excuse not to: “But the president said … !”
Second, keeping emergency measures in place will be tough. Thirteen states as well as the military are under some sort of emergency order or mandates based on their COVID infection numbers. Now there’ll be pressure to lift everything, particularly from public health-averse Republicans.
(Plus the pauses in student loan debt repayments is predicated on the continuing presence of Covid as a disruptor in people’s lives.)
Take GOP Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky. He came out and said that if the pandemic is over, “then all of the President’s emergency powers predicated on a pandemic, all COVID vax mandates, the emergency powers of every governor, Emergency Use Authorizations, and the PREP act should all be voided tomorrow.” Great!
Finally, Biden’s own administration is trying to get $22.4 billion in Covid funding from Congress to be able to continue giving free vaccines and free rapid tests, as well as combat the greater number of infections and deaths among people of color and the poor. Now that Biden has spouted off, good luck with that.
Just listen to what Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said: “Well, if it’s over, I wouldn’t suspect they need any more money.”
Thanks, Joe! (Okay, okay, so the Republicans probably weren’t going to vote for the extra money anyway. But why hand them an excuse on a silver platter? I’d rather hand them plane tickets to Venezuela.)
Look, there’s no doubt that we’re far better off today than we were even as recently as January, when the US had about 800,000 cases a day, 160,000 people were being admitted to the hospital with COVID every day, and 2,600 people were dying every day.
But today’s numbers still are unacceptable. Are we really okay with 400 to 500 Americans dying every day from a disease that could be brought under control? In 2020 and 2021, Covid was the third leading cause of death for Americans, behind heart disease and cancer.
And it will remain high, maybe slipping below accidents this year, but likely staying deadlier than strokes, respiratory diseases, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, liver disease, and kidney disease.
BTW, for the Covid deniers walking around saying that it’s like the flu, get a clue. In the US, the flu kills anywhere from 12,000 to 52,000 people per year. Covid is expected to kill anywhere from 113,000 to 188,000 Americans annually. Big difference.
And there’s probably no turning that around, given that Americans have proven ourselves incapable or unwilling to do what it takes to protect ourselves from deadly diseases.
Look at the leading causes of death: Heart disease and cancer. Most of those are diet-based. Yet we keep right on eating saturated fat from animals; processed meat like bacon, hot dogs, and deli meat; too much sugar, too much salt. Too many of us still smoke and too many of us drink too much alcohol.
Many Americans would prefer to have a stroke, a heart attack, or cancer rather than give up steak, cheeseburgers, fries, sausages, fried chicken, or potato chips. So expecting them to take measures to prevent the spread of Covid, like getting vaccinated, is just a Big Mac too far.
White House: Public will need annual boosters
The boosters will be free, but there’s no money for much more.
“Congress is aware that if we do not continue to fund the response, things … can easily go backwards,” Jha said.
Becerra, however, remained vague on whether there are enough updated vaccine doses available for whoever wants one when asked about the lack of new funding. The White House previously warned that additional boosters and variant-specific vaccines would not be available for everyone if new funding was not approved by Congress.
The wells run dry: The White House cut funds from other areas of the COVID-19 response earlier this year in order to continually fund treatments and vaccines.
Becerra said the possibility of going into the fall and winter without vaccines for Americans was “unacceptable.”
“We will not have tests in our Strategic National Stockpile should we see another omicron like event,” Becerra said. “We had promised the American people we would make sure that we did not get into that, but we needed Congress to step up. Congress has not stepped up.”
WORLD COVID STATS