President Biden caused waves when he declared in a “60 Minutes” interview that the COVID-19 pandemic is “over,” and his chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci joined those who sought to walk back that statement.
On Monday, Fauci aimed to qualify the president’s optimistic remark, acknowledging that while the worst of the coronavirus is over, it still remains a concern.
“What he really meant is that the very severe stage of the pandemic of having … 3,000 deaths a day — that stage is no longer present,” Fauci told Politico, adding that “people should not be cavalier that we’re out of the woods.”
Biden never said that COVID-19 was entirely a thing of the past, but as he looked forward to the first Detroit Auto Show in three years, he did indicate that the pandemic stage is in the rearview mirror.
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“The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID, we’re still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over,” Biden said in the interview, which aired Sunday.
Republicans were quick to point to the president’s remark to counter the administration, which has been pushing for an additional $22 billion in government spending to go toward COVID relief. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., sent a letter to Biden asking if he intends to end administration programs and policies related to the pandemic in light of his statement.
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“I have questions about actions your Administration is taking that do not align with your announcement,” said the letter, posted on Twitter by CNN’s Manu Raju. Burr went on to ask about Stafford Act and National Emergencies Act declarations, vaccination requirements for federal workers, CDC recommendations, and more.
Fauci was not the only one to try to clarify the president’s words. In a Fox News interview Monday, Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., offered a take.
“I think what the president was trying to say is that the worst of the pandemic is over,” Khanna said, pointing to those who suffer symptoms of what is referred to as “long COVID,” as well as “people who are vulnerable who have issues.”
“I don’t think we can be complacent about it, but what he was trying to say is life has largely returned to normal,” Khanna added before suggesting what he would have said instead.
“The way I would phrase it is the worst of the pandemic is over,” Khanna said.