Covid-19: Now is not the time to declare victory

This week, President Biden said what millions of Americans have been hoping to hear since the spring of 2020: “The pandemic is over.” I am deeply concerned that this declaration is not only premature, but dangerous.

As others have noted, it will now be even harder to persuade Americans get the new bivalent boosters. It’ll be tougher to persuade Congress to fund essential COVID responses. And it will be nearly impossible for local officials to impose new indoor mask requirements should another surge arrive.

The president’s words could also make it harder for policy-makers and voters to understand how essential it is to upgrade our data infrastructure, to stockpile essential medicine and equipment, to invest in preventive care in vulnerable populations, to restructure our emergency response agencies, and to support an infusion of public health workers at the local and state levels.

Today, the U.S. is still reporting about 60,000 cases and 400 deaths each day. Meanwhile, Long COVID is keeping an estimated 4 million adults out of work. Many Americans remain unvaccinated and, of course, new variants continue to emerge.

In my latest op-ed for The Hill, I argue that declaring the pandemic over at this stage is tantamount to accepting all this misery as background noise. And if we do that, it’s nearly impossible to make the case that we need to do more as a society to protect the vulnerable, respond to surges, or prepare for future crises. Read the op/ed here.