President Biden declared the coronavirus pandemic “over” in an interview that aired Sunday, pointing to the return of large events and the lack of masking and other public health measures in place nationwide.
“The pandemic is over,” Biden told “60 Minutes” from the Detroit auto show last Wednesday, the first time the even has been held since the onset of the pandemic in 2020.
“We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lotta work on it. It’s — 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.”
The United States is still recording an average of more than 400 deaths per day from COVID-19, according to New York Times data, and more than 1 million Americans have died from the virus since the pandemic began in early 2020.
Highly contagious variants have spread throughout the globe, making it nearly impossible to fully eradicate COVID-19.
As a result, the Biden administration has focused its messaging on the importance of getting vaccinated and receiving booster shots to increase immunity, as well as the wide availability of of antiviral pills and other forms of treatment for those who contract the virus.
Biden himself contracted COVID-19 in July, but experienced only mild symptoms, according to his doctor. Officials credited his mild case to being fully vaccinated and taking the antiviral drug Paxlovid.
The U.S. and much of the world has returned to hosting large events over the past year, like the auto show, and done away with requirements that attendees wear masks or provide proof of vaccination. The U.S. still requires foreign visitors to be fully vaccinated to come to the country by plane.
The World Health Organization (WHO) still categorizes COVID-19 as a pandemic.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s top medical adviser on the pandemic, said earlier this year the U.S. was moving “out of the pandemic phase” with COVID-19, pointing to the manageable levels of hospitalizations and deaths in the country.
Biden has in the past argued that the United States had turned a corner on the pandemic, most notably during a speech on Independence Day in 2021, when he asserted the country had the tools necessary to “declare independence” from the virus.
But in the weeks that followed, the delta variant contributed to a surge in cases and deaths. And in late 2021 into early 2022, the omicron variant again led to a spike in cases and deaths. Newly available booster shots were designed specifically to shield Americans from severe cases of the omicron variant.
In the 60 Minutes interview, Biden said the “impact on the psyche of the American people as a consequence of the pandemic is profound.”
“Think of how that has changed everything. You know, people’s attitudes about themselves, their families, about the state of the nation, about the state of their communities. And so there’s a lot of uncertainty out there, a great deal of uncertainty. And we lost a million people. A million people to COVID,” he said.
“When I got in office, when I got elected, only 2 million people had been vaccinated. I got 220 million — my point is it takes time,” he added. “We were left in a very difficult situation. It’s been a very difficult time. Very difficult.”
Updated at 8:58 p.m.