President Joseph Biden's administration Thursday announced an extension for 90 more days of the COVID-19 pandemic emergency declaration. The measure has been in practice since January 2020.
Thursday's decision even after Biden's statements that the pandemic was over seeks to achieve readiness to respond to a hypothetical increase in cases during the winter months. The US administration also said Thursday that it would provide 60 days’ notice before ending the public health emergency.
White House COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha urged Americans to blunt the potential spike in infections by getting the updated COVID-19 vaccine, which targets dominant variants of the virus. “If you are up to date with your vaccines and if you get treated, if you have a breakthrough infection, your risk of dying from COVID is now close to zero,” he told reporters.
“We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lotta work on it. It’s — but the pandemic is over,” Biden had said amid a shift in Washington toward treating the virus as a manageable threat rather than a crisis, as deaths and hospitalizations have declined steadily.
However, the President's statement contradicted Dr. Jha’s words at a White House press briefing less than a fortnight earlier. On Sept. 6. Jha said that “we will remain vigilant, and of course, we continue to look for and prepare for unforeseen twists and turns.”
Last month Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said that although the country has made significant progress in its fight against covid-19 compared to last year, the pandemic was not yet over. Between 300 and 400 people a day are dying from covid. We're not over it, he said. What the president said is what everyone feels, that we are much better off now than we were a year ago, Becerra added.
Becerra dismissed the idea of lifting the emergency declaration and insisted on waiting for the scientific community to pronounce itself. We are going to wait for the scientists to give us a guide and tell us where we stand, he assured.