​Is the Pandemic Over?

If the American government and a large portion of the public think they should do nothing about health and safety until there is a crisis, then there are going to be more crises.

Is the pandemic over? U.S. President Joe Biden said it was in a nationally televised interview earlier in September.

Reacting to the president’s comment, Nathan J. Robinson, the founder and editor of the American magazine Current Affairs, said it was “a ridiculously stupid thing to say when around 400 people a day are dying still [in the United States].”

American policy toward COVID-19 has been stupid for a long time. When he was president, Donald Trump denied that it was a problem and said cases would go away if we just stopped testing. Meanwhile, governors of Republican-led states encouraged tourists to come and crowd their beaches and take part in massive motorcycle rallies. Miracle cures were pushed instead of vaccinations.

To this day, the U.S. has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the Western world.

But was Biden’s comment really so stupid? His full statement exhibited more nuance: “The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with Covid. We’re still doing a lot of work on it.”

Things can return to normal, but people can still take actions to protect themselves. We don’t need to refrain from meeting friends like we did during the “lockdown” stage of the pandemic, but we can still take common sense prevention measures.

I am in Thailand now. Bars, restaurants, night markets and temples are crowded. Tourism routes are all open. Nearly 90% of locals wear masks everywhere, as do a majority of tourists in urban areas.

Americans, however, have not seemed so able to come to a nuanced view on the pandemic. When I visited the U.S. in August, I was even threatened for wearing a mask when I went inside a drugstore.

A medical worker collects a swab sample from a resident for a COVID-19 test in Los Angeles, California, the United States, on Aug. 5, 2022. (Photo/Xinhua)

NPR reported, “The president’s comments come as public health officials are trying to convince Americans to get a new booster shot, and as the White House has worked unsuccessfully for months to convince Congress to provide more than $22 billion in new funding for the COVID-19 response.”

Many people get flu shots every year, even though there is not always a pandemic.

But when Biden announced “the pandemic is over,” Republican legislators responded by saying that the government should end all measures to help Americans cope with the coronavirus. Republican Senator Bill Cassidy even asked, “Why does he [Biden] want tens of billions of dollars for COVID?” Senator Cassidy was unable to realize that people still don’t want to get sick – and possibly die – from a highly contagious virus, which is still spreading, even if the pandemic is over.

People still need to get tested to prevent themselves from passing on the virus to friends or elderly family members. I needed a test to travel earlier this year. If someone does get badly sick, they need treatment.

There are other health problems beyond the coronavirus, too. In fact, monkeypox is also spreading in the U.S. It is much harder to catch than the coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem for many Americans. Biden requested $4.5 billion to combat monkeypox, which Republicans in Congress are also denying.

Senator Mitt Romney said it would be “a very heavy lift for myself and other Republicans” to vote for monkeypox funding. Likewise, Senator John Thune said Republicans had “zero interest” in approving a single dollar of funding for people affected by monkeypox.

If the American government and a large portion of the public think they should do nothing about health and safety until there is a crisis, then there are going to be more crises.