Promise: “I’m never going to raise the white flag and surrender. We’re going to beat this virus. We’re going to get it under control, I promise you.”
President Joe Biden caused a stir in a “60 Minutes” interview on Sept. 18 when he declared that the covid-19 pandemic is over.
“We still have a problem with covid — we’re still doing a lot of work on it,” Biden said. “But the pandemic is over.”
Critics countered that the U.S. is still averaging about 400 deaths daily from the virus, that nearly 30,000 Americans remain hospitalized, and that many others are suffering from “long covid” symptoms stemming from previous infections.
Two days later, Biden acknowledged that despite the negative reactions by some, the pandemic “basically is not where it was.” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the coronavirus “a lot more manageable.” Past experience means “we know what works,” she said.
PolitiFact has been tracking a campaign promise Biden made in 2020 that is closely related, but distinct, from what Biden told “60 Minutes.” During the presidential campaign, Biden said, “I’m never going to raise the white flag and surrender. We’re going to beat this virus. We’re going to get it under control, I promise you. “
Biden is on safer linguistic ground with his promise to get covid “under control” than saying “the pandemic is over.”
There remains some debate among public health experts about whether the pandemic is “over” — or whether it realistically can ever be. There is no official arbiter for making that decision, and the word “over” suggests a finality that is not well suited for describing a pathogen that will exist in some form indefinitely.
However, we found broad agreement among infectious-disease specialists that the pandemic by now is “under control.”
When Biden was inaugurated, physical distancing was widely enforced, schools were often virtual, public events were rare or tightly controlled, and few Americans had yet received a vaccine. Today, life for many Americans is much closer to the pre-pandemic norm, with virtually all schools open, concerts and restaurants well attended, and travel back to its typical level.
“The nation clearly has made tremendous progress on covid-19 since President Biden’s election,” said Jen Kates, senior vice president and director of global health and HIV policy at KFF. “I would probably say that we are in a pandemic ‘transition’ phase — that is, moving from the pandemic into a post-pandemic period. But th …