President Biden twice said the pandemic is over during his first one-on-one interview in more than six months.
"The Pandemic is over," the President told 60 Minutes. "We still have a problem with COVID. We're still doing a lot of work on it. But the Pandemic is over. If you notice, no one is wearing masks and everyone seems to be in good shape."
Putting the pandemic in the rear-view mirror raises questions about continued vaccine mandates for the military, teachers, and other government workers.
It could also make it difficult for Biden to pass the more than $22 billion COVID Relief Bill to pay for more vaccines, tests, and PPE, a plan touted Monday by his Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.
With U.S. deaths topping 400 daily, doctors warn against developing a false sense of security.
"Not to quote Rambo, but it's not over," Penn Medicine Internal Medicine specialist Michael Cirigliano, M.D. told CBN News. "It's not over. And the bottom line is this. It's close. We're better than we were. In fact, the World Health Organization leadership has said, 'Look, we're in a very good place, we're getting there,' but I wouldn't exactly say it's over."
Dr. Cirigliano said the U.S. will not see the high death tolls from the past because most Americans now have some level of immunity from previous infection, vaccination, or both. Also, therapeutics such as the anti-viral medication Paxlovid are keeping many patients out of the hospital.
Health experts say if it hasn't already happened, the COVID-19 pandemic will be downgraded to an endemic, like the flu, which kills about 30,000 Americans each year.
"There will always be people who succumb to anything," said Dr. Cirigliano. "Whether it be the flu or another kind of viral illness, but COVID-19 will be relegated to that kind of level and not a pandemic where no one has immunity."
Doctors see COVID boosters becoming an annual fall recommendation like the flu shot.
Craig DeLisi, M.D., a Family Medicine Specialist at Titus Regional Medical Center in Mt. Pleasant, Texas, told CBN News he didn't think the person who declared the pandemic over would be a politician.
"I think what he meant was things are improving, but declaring it was over was not the best verbiage," Dr. DeLisi said. "Saying the pandemic is over might make people think, 'OK, we don't need to give any concern whatsoever,' and that's just not true. It's a virus that's here, it's a stinker of a virus, still probably the most contagious one we see, and still affects people profoundly. I've lost patients even in the last couple of months that I care deeply about."
While health experts may debate whether COVID-19 is now a pandemic or an endemic, one thing is certain: we need to learn to live with it because it's here to stay.
"I think as people who follow Christ," said Dr. DeLisi, "we do that, one, without fear, in other words, we know who holds tomorrow even if that tomorrow is terrible and ugly, our trust is in Him; and the second, is that I think we should do that with others consideration. And I hope we have learned that with COVID that my germs don't just affect me, and I think we should be considerate, and err on the side of caution and love."
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