It was a surprise to some of his own health officials, according to The Washington Post. And you’re forgiven if this supposed end to the pandemic comes as a surprise to you, as well.
“We still have a problem with Covid,” Biden said in the interview, which aired Sunday night. “We’re still doing a lot of work on it … but the pandemic is over.”
Of all people, Biden and his administration should know the lack of masks doesn’t indicate a lack of risk.
Covid is still killing hundreds of Americans per day and hospitalizing thousands more, and health officials across the country are preparing for what could be a historically deadly winter surge of the virus — all this, at a time when conservatives in Congress are holding up billions of dollars in funds for tests and other safety measures. Even the World Health Organization said, just last week, the pandemic isn’t over. But Biden sounded oddly optimistic on Sunday.
“If you notice, no one’s wearing masks,” Biden said to CBS News reporter Scott Pelley. “Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it’s changing. And I think this is a perfect example of it.”
After acknowledging Covid is still a “problem” (which is putting it mildly), Biden effectively papered over that by using the lack of Covid protocol at a Detroit auto show he was attending to demonstrate his view that the pandemic is effectively over.
Of course, this is dangerous misinformation. Suggesting the lack of people taking Covid precautions indicates the end of the pandemic is a misstep by the president. And it was reckless for him to make that suggestion speaking to millions of Americans.
Of all people, Biden and his administration should know the lack of masks doesn’t indicate a lack of risk. After all, Biden and first lady Jill Biden tested positive for covid over the summer. What's more, when a federal judge struck down the administration’s mask mandate for public transportation, for example, the ruling didn’t suddenly make it safer for people not to mask up. And neither do Biden’s comments.
Another note for President Biden: a Detroit auto show is not the place to announce the supposed end of a yearslong pandemic anyway.
For such a revelation, might I recommend a hospital or, say, some kind of medical facility? You know, somewhere you can earnestly demonstrate that a disease that’s killed hundreds by the day is no longer doing so?
And that’s to say nothing of the lingering effects of Covid (known as “long Covid”), which health equity experts and lawmakers insist isn’t being given enough attention.
Some may argue that Biden was making a popular decision in declaring the pandemic over, since many Americans already seem to have cast aside Covid protocols in favor of a more carefree (and reckless) lifestyle. And sure, maybe he was making a political calculation — but that doesn’t make it any less harmful. It’s a calculation that condemns the very groups Biden vowed to protect throughout his campaign: people who’ve been harmed disproportionately by the spread of Covid, including those with preexisting conditions, who are disproportionately mature-aged and disproportionately nonwhite. For these people, declaring the pandemic over when it very clearly is not is a betrayal and, quite possibly, a death sentence.
Biden not only can do better. He must, or else deal with his resulting legacy of Covid denial and willful ignorance.