10:06am: Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval

Is the Pandemic Over or Are We ‘Just So Over’ the Pandemic?

Is the Covid pandemic over?

That depends on who you’re listening to, and your definition of “over.”

President Biden said in an interview with 60 Minutes Sunday that the pandemic is over. “If you notice, no one’s wearing a mask.  Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape,” Biden said.

Biden is right in a non-medical sense, because many Americans “are so over it all.”  They are tired of hearing about Covid, have quit being as careful as they once were, and have returned to their normal lives.

Add in those who consistently rejected the pandemic warnings and vaccination advice, and you have a country that has largely put the pandemic behind it.

However, just because people have moved on doesn’t mean the virus has disappeared. It is still around. People are still getting sick and, in more extreme cases, dying. West Virginia DHHR reported three additional deaths in the most recent update, while nationally about 400 people are dying from the virus each day.

The Dictionary of Epidemiology defines a pandemic as “an epidemic occurring worldwide, on or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people.” By that definition, we have not reached the end of the pandemic.

“We are not there yet but the end is in sight,” said World Health Organization director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We can see the finish line, but now is the worst time to stop running.”

Governor Jim Justice, who has been a consistent advocate for vaccines and best practices to avoid the virus, agrees with that assessment.

“I don’t think the pandemic is over,” he said at Monday’s briefing. “I think we can live with this pandemic but the more people we can get across the finish line and get vaccinated the better we’ll be able to live with this pandemic. It’s not over. It’s absolutely not over.”

Justice and health officials continue to advise individuals to take advantage of the new boosters and get vaccinated. According to DHHR figures, 63 percent of West Virginians have had at least one dose, about half are fully vaccinated and a third have had a booster.

This new updated booster, which the FDA authorized last month, is formulated to vaccinate against the original strain of the virus, as well as the BA.4 and BA.5 variants. Health officials are encouraging individuals to combine the new booster with their annual flu shot, but the response has been slow and mixed.

As the New York Times reported, “The rollout felt methodical, but muted compared with the frenzied urgency of earlier waves of vaccinations when thousands of people jockeyed outside stadiums for scarce doses and politicians got their shots on live television.”

As always, individuals can and will make their own decisions about whether to get boosted or continue taking Covid precautions.  Expect the warnings about the virus, as well as the flu, to increase as we head into winter.

But from the very beginning, the Covid virus has done what viruses do—mutate and try to find a way to survive, ignoring whether we just want it all to be over.



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