The Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Rochelle Walensky has clashed with President Joe Biden’s assertion that the coronavirus pandemic is over, instead preferring to say that ‘we’re in a different place’.
Speaking with ABC News Walensky refused to agree with Biden’s declaration that the pandemic is in the rear view mirror but she did acknowledge how hospitalization and case rates were falling thanks to the wide availability of vaccines.
Biden made his remarks during his appearance on CBS 60 Minutes on Sunday.
‘The pandemic is over. 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’s wearing masks. 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,’ Biden said while walking around the Detroit Auto Show last week – an event which drew thousands of visitors.
The Director of the CDC Dr. Rochelle Walensky refused to agree with the president’s claim that the pandemic is over saying instead ‘we’re in a different place’
Biden made the assertion that the pandemic was finally over during an interview with CBS 60 Minutes on Sunday
The toll of the COVID-19 pandemic has diminished significantly since early in Biden’s term when more than 3,000 Americans per day were dying, as enhanced care, medications and vaccinations have become more widely available, but nearly 400 people a day continue to die from COVID-19 in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Director Walensky was careful to choose her words during the interview: ‘I think if we look at the big picture, things are very different. We’re in a different place. Schools are open and businesses are open. We have a lot of population immunity out there right now.’
However, she noted that with hundreds of Americans still dying from the virus, the fatality rate was still too high.
The CDC continued to monitor the emergence of any new variants of concern.
Biden declared the pandemic to be over while walking around the Detroit Auto Show last week – an event which drew thousands of visitors
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, pictured, was filmed getting her COVID booster shot
‘We will be ready to step up to the plate,’ she said.
‘We’ve seen time and time again is [that] our vaccines are working pretty well against severe disease, hospitalization and death, even when variants emerge, which is why it’s so very important to go ahead and get your updated vaccine now,’ Walensky encouraged.
Scientists point to emerging research that suggests the latest omicron variant is gaining ground in the U.S. – BA.4.6 appears to be even better at evading the immune system than the dominant BA.5.
Omicron has been around since late last year, with a series of super transmissible versions quickly displacing one another.
Experts say COVID will keep causing serious illness in some people.
The COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub made some pandemic projections spanning August 2022 to May 2023, assuming the new tweaked boosters adding protection for the newest omicron relatives would be available and a booster campaign would take place in fall and winter. In the most pessimistic scenario – a new variant and late boosters – they projected 1.3 million hospitalizations and 181,000 deaths during that period.
In the most optimistic scenario – no new variant and early boosters – they projected a little more than half the number of hospitalizations and 111,000 deaths.
U.S. health officials say 4.4 million Americans have rolled up their sleeves for the updated COVID-19 booster shot.
Booster shots of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are displayed during a vaccine clinic in Vermont earlier this week. Public health experts bemoaned President Joe Biden’s recent remark that ‘the pandemic is over’
Health experts said it is too early to predict whether demand would match up with the 171 million doses of the new boosters the U.S. ordered for the fall.
Walsnsky has also suggested that people get their flu shot with fears of a severe influenza season.
She believes up to 100,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations and 9,000 deaths could be prevented if Americans get the updated COVID booster at the same rate they typically get an annual flu shot this fall.
‘We know over the last several years is some people did not elect to get their flu shot. We’ve had decreased rates of flu over the last several years and probably due to many of the mitigation strategies that we have in place for COVID. When that happens, we have decreased levels of population immunity, which raises the concern that the next year, you might have a higher, larger flu challenge. We can’t predict what a flu season will look like, but we have concerns.’