Local expert explains what it actually means when President Biden says the 'pandemic is over'

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Tuesday, September 20, 2022
Medical experts weigh in after President Biden says 'pandemic is over'
Twenty-four hours after President Joe Biden said the pandemic was over, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services elaborated on what he meant.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Twenty-four hours after President Joe Biden said the pandemic was over, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, elaborated on what he meant.

"I think the President was reflecting what so many Americans are feeling and thinking that COVID has disrupted our lives for so long," Becerra said. "But we're also finding that with these effective vaccines, with the masking with the efforts to protect our children, our seniors, we've learned how to cope with this virus. But make no mistake, people are still dying."

Over 400 Americans are still dying from COVID every day. The overall picture of COVID community levels across the country is mostly "green" meaning there are low levels of transmission right now.

RELATED: World Health Organization says 'the end' of pandemic 'is in sight'

This CDC map also shows several "red" spots of high levels of transmission mostly in the Midwest, south and north east of the country. UCSF infectious diseases doctor Monica Gandhi said the term "over" is not entirely accurate.

"It just means it's not over in terms of COVID being over. It just means the emergency phase," Dr. Gandhi said.

Dr. Gandhi has been tracking COVID in European countries as a sign of what the US should expect and says we need to manage our expectations.

"Actually the U.K has already called COVID less mortal and less virulent than the flu at this point. So it's just a relative way of speaking. We will never get rid of COVID," Dr. Gandhi said, adding, "There are 29 species of animals that carry COVID and because of that we'll never eradicate COVID."

RELATED: New COVID-19 booster targets Omicron strains; clinics open in Contra Costa Co.

In California, COVID cases and deaths have been going down since March. ABC7 spoke to the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UCSF's Parnassus campus to get a clear picture of what she is seeing every day.

"Four, five months ago started noticing a change in the severity of the illness. So we still had a number of people coming in but they were just not as sick," Dr. Maria Raven said.

Both Dr. Raven and Dr. Gandhi are attributing this decrease in cases and deaths to vaccines, boosters, and pharmaceuticals. Dr. Raven believes protocol could also change.

"I think we are going to have to get to the point where we are not restricting people from coming to work based on just a test from COVID. We are going to have to look at the overall picture," Dr. Raven said.

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