In his State of the Union speech on February 7, President Joe Biden made it clear that the Administration is moving into the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic—one in which the threats of disease and death are considerably diminished, and therefore no longer require the resources and urgent allocation of funds that the previous two years have. “While the virus is not gone…we have broken COVID’s grip on us,” Biden said.
But health experts say now is not the time to let down our collective guard on SARS-CoV-2. “I don’t believe the virus has gotten the memo that the pandemic is winding down,” says Dr. Jeffrey Glenn, director of the Stanford Biosecurity and Pandemic Preparedness Initiative.
Here’s what health experts told TIME News about the federal government’s recent moves distancing the U.S. from the pandemic.
- Some winding down is justified. The U.S. government recently announced that it will end the COVID-19 national and public health emergencies in May.
- COVID-19 is not through with us. Globally, there are around 200,000 new cases and 1,000 deaths a day. The latest Omicron variants quashed any hope of the pandemic ending any time soon. While they do not cause more serious infections than past variants, they have mastered the challenge of hopping more efficiently from one infected person to another.
- We are wasting an opportunity. Even though COVID-19 cases are no longer inundating most hospitals, that means it’s time to rethink the COVID-19 response, not abandon it.
“There is a disconnect between the broad perception that the pandemic is behind us, and focusing on getting back to life as it was pre-pandemic. But the reality is that we still continue to have substantial transmission and deaths due to COVID in the U.S., and we are in a situation where the virus will be with us for a long time.” says Wafaa El-Sadr, founder and director of ICAP at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health
This message is aimed to have the public understand we should not put COVID-19 completely behind us, but to move forward armed with the lessons we’ve learned from our experience. RHA will continue to listen, learn, and comply with the State of Illinois and the Federal HUD regulations regarding COVID-19 and our community. Everyone stay safe and healthy.