WAs the first COVID-19 cases began to accumulate around the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) came under pressure to declare the disease a pandemic. That announcement opened the key to more funding, resources and urgent actions to bring cases under control.
Now, in a 60 minutes interviewPresident Biden has said that “the pandemic is over”. He cites the fact that people are no longer wearing masks, major public events like the Detroit Auto Show have resumed in person, and concerns about COVID-19 no longer dictate our behavior. the way they have been in the last two years.
But public health experts are beware of claims. other diseases. It is also a sentiment of concern that comes as health officials in the United States launch a booster campaign to restore waning protection from vaccines before the fall and winter, when respiratory viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 tend to reign freely.
The fact is, while Biden’s statement is rare, wearing a mask It’s true, it’s largely the result of public fatigue and because a Florida judge overturned federal regulations requiring face masks in government buildings and on public roads. public transport facilities. Therefore, the disappearance of masks cannot be fully explained as a result of a reduced risk from the virus.
The President’s statement “is counterproductive because it reinforces the impression to many that we don’t have to worry about COVID-19 anymore,” said Dr. Eric Toner, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. at Bloomberg said. School of Public Health. “By pandemic, most people mean people around the world who are susceptible to an infectious disease that people have no immunity to, and which can therefore cause serious illness. It is absolutely true that the pandemic is much less severe than it used to be. But the reality is, we still have 65,000 new cases reported per day and 450 deaths per day, an annual figure of 170,000 deaths per year. So it’s not over yet.”
Yes, infections are dwindling, and yes, the number of deaths from COVID-19 is also significantly lower than since the Omicron wave hit earlier this year. But more than 500 people die from COVID-19 on average each week, and a worrying sign is that hospitalizations, especially among the elderly, are increasing as vaccine-provided immunity increases. reduced level.
Declare that the pandemic is over will inevitably lead people to a sense of complacency that infectious disease experts consider premature. Even as we move towards a reality where COVID-19 becomes more like the flu, with one shot every year (or more often), COVID-19 still causes more infections and deaths. than the average flu. The truth is that the Omicron variant and its newest subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, very contagious. And while they don’t seem to cause more serious disease, here’s the problem with viruses: the more infections a virus causes and the more hosts it infects, the better its chance of replicating. And every time it makes more copies of itself, it can create mutations. The more mutations generated, the more likely it is that one or more of those mutations can lead to a more virulent version that causes more severe disease.
The threat from COVID-19 is certainly not what it used to be, vaccines and antiretroviral therapy changed that. These drugs were made available in the US because the government declared COVID-19 a public health emergency, allowing Congress to set aside funds to make those shots and therapies available to the public at no cost. them American. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently extended that designation until at least the end of October, and the WHO has not yet declared victory on COVID-19.
Declaring the pandemic over could jeopardize continued funding, just when it might be most needed, to immunize people with the first Omicron booster before winter. “As the administration is trying to get new money from Congress for COVID-19, it seems like a mistimed and inaccurate message,” Toner said. According to Minister Xavier Becerra, HHS has diverted funds from other health services to make these boosters available to the public free of charge.
When will COVID-19 end? There is no strict definition for What constitutes a pandemic?, as well as when it has run its process. The size of the epidemic, in terms of its worldwide scope, is one of the main criteria for declaring a pandemic, and similarly, the decline in cases and the spread of disease will factor leading to its completion. But those decisions are as much economic as epidemiological — like a pandemic, COVID-19 will cost the global economy $12.5 trillion by 2024, according to the Fund’s latest estimates. International Currency. And that funding has strained governments around the world, both in developed and developing countries; if COVID-19 is no longer a pandemic, that means governments may be less obligated to devote significant resources to things like testing, vaccine programs and treatments. And with the White House taking the lead in declaring the pandemic over, that could encourage governors in states that have tended to limit COVID-19 responses to eliminate them altogether. That could lead to lower protection because many people are not reinforced indoors, not wearing masks, in colder weather when the virus spreads more easily.
This winter will be a critical season when it comes to seeing where the pandemic will go — with a new booster, better suited to the Omicron variant, it could continue to decline, moving closer to disease-like behavior. flu. Or, if people believe they don’t have to worry about COVID-19 anymore, Omicron, or even an unnamed variant, could lead to another spike in cases.
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