President Joe Biden told "60 Minutes" correspondent Scott Pelley "the...

President Joe Biden told "60 Minutes" correspondent Scott Pelley "the pandemic is over." Credit: 60 MINUTES/Eric Kerchner

Long Island health experts said that President Joe Biden was premature when he declared in a television interview that the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

In an episode of “60 Minutes” that aired on Sunday, Biden said “the pandemic is over.” He added: “We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lotta work on it.”

Dr. Leonard Krilov, chief of pediatrics and an infectious disease specialist at NYU Langone Hospital – Long Island in Mineola, said the COVID-19 situation has improved but not to the point where the pandemic label can be removed.

“Who knows what is going to happen this fall and winter?” he said. “Until we see a regular cycle of lower numbers of disease, which to me will be the definition of endemic, I don’t think we can say we are there yet.”

Krilov worried that declaring the pandemic over would decrease vigilance and prevent people from getting vaccinated and boosted.

Dr. Alan Bulbin, director of infectious diseases at Catholic Health St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center, said: “Saying the pandemic is over I think is kind of premature. We're going in the right direction.”

Biden was responding to a question from correspondent Scott Pelley, who noted they were at the first Detroit Auto Show in three years and then asked the President if the pandemic was over.

“The pandemic is over. If you notice, no one’s wearing masks,” Biden said. “Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it’s changing.”

Last week, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros declared "the end is in sight" to the pandemic. He noted global reported deaths from COVID-19 between Sept. 5 and 11 were just over 11,000, a 22% decrease from the previous week,  the lowest total since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.

Updated national COVID-19 trends tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show an overall decrease in cases, deaths and hospital admissions from the disease.

But COVID-19 is still prevalent in many locations including Long Island, which saw over 600 new cases reported on Sunday, according to statistics from the state Health Department. The actual number is likely higher since many people are using at-home COVID-19 tests. Those results are not reported.

The 7-day average of positive test results reported on Long Island over the last three days has ticked up from 7.81% to 8.01% in recent days.

Experts say it’s too soon to know how lifting precautions such as mandatory mask wearing, as well as the return to school and other indoor activities in the fall, will impact COVID-19 cases.

COVID-19, with its numerous variants and subvariants, is still very unpredictable, unlike influenza, a common endemic virus, said Sean Clouston, an associate professor of public health at Stony Brook University.

“With the flu, a variant slowly rolls around the Earth infecting people and then comes rolling back,” said Clouston. “With COVID-19 that’s not what we are seeing. What we’re seeing is there is one new variant and it just explodes, rolls entirely around the world and then there’s another new variant. It feels like wave after wave of pandemic rather than one pandemic that we’re slowly figuring out.”

In scientific terms, a pandemic is an event in which a disease spreads across several countries and affects a large number of people, according to the CDC.

The phrase endemic “refers to the constant presence and/or usual prevalence of a disease or infectious agent in a population within a geographic area,” the agency said.

“Endemic is when the virus is well entrenched, well established in a large population, but to the point where it doesn't disrupt daily life,” said Bulbin, of Catholic Health St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center.

He said the pandemic is still very much a concern for people who are at high risk — 65 and older and those who are immunocompromised patients.

“They're the ones who at, at this point on Long Island, for example, who are making up most of the hospitalizations,” Bulbin said.

For most people, however, masking, required testing and other guidelines have mostly been eliminated, he said. “So that’s clearly progressing towards no disruption of your daily activities,” Bulbin said.

Long Island health experts said that President Joe Biden was premature when he declared in a television interview that the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

In an episode of “60 Minutes” that aired on Sunday, Biden said “the pandemic is over.” He added: “We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lotta work on it.”

Dr. Leonard Krilov, chief of pediatrics and an infectious disease specialist at NYU Langone Hospital – Long Island in Mineola, said the COVID-19 situation has improved but not to the point where the pandemic label can be removed.

“Who knows what is going to happen this fall and winter?” he said. “Until we see a regular cycle of lower numbers of disease, which to me will be the definition of endemic, I don’t think we can say we are there yet.”

WHAT TO KNOW

  • President Biden said he believes the COVID-19 pandemic is over but said the disease is still a problem.

  • Infectious disease experts on Long Island said it’s premature to declare the pandemic over but said cases, deaths and hospitalizations across the country have been declining.

  • Experts are concerned people will not seek out COVID-19 vaccinations or booster shots if they believe the pandemic is over. 

Krilov worried that declaring the pandemic over would decrease vigilance and prevent people from getting vaccinated and boosted.

Dr. Alan Bulbin, director of infectious diseases at Catholic Health St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center, said: “Saying the pandemic is over I think is kind of premature. We're going in the right direction.”

Biden was responding to a question from correspondent Scott Pelley, who noted they were at the first Detroit Auto Show in three years and then asked the President if the pandemic was over.

“The pandemic is over. If you notice, no one’s wearing masks,” Biden said. “Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it’s changing.”

Last week, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros declared "the end is in sight" to the pandemic. He noted global reported deaths from COVID-19 between Sept. 5 and 11 were just over 11,000, a 22% decrease from the previous week,  the lowest total since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.

Updated national COVID-19 trends tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show an overall decrease in cases, deaths and hospital admissions from the disease.

But COVID-19 is still prevalent in many locations including Long Island, which saw over 600 new cases reported on Sunday, according to statistics from the state Health Department. The actual number is likely higher since many people are using at-home COVID-19 tests. Those results are not reported.

The 7-day average of positive test results reported on Long Island over the last three days has ticked up from 7.81% to 8.01% in recent days.

Experts say it’s too soon to know how lifting precautions such as mandatory mask wearing, as well as the return to school and other indoor activities in the fall, will impact COVID-19 cases.

COVID-19, with its numerous variants and subvariants, is still very unpredictable, unlike influenza, a common endemic virus, said Sean Clouston, an associate professor of public health at Stony Brook University.

“With the flu, a variant slowly rolls around the Earth infecting people and then comes rolling back,” said Clouston. “With COVID-19 that’s not what we are seeing. What we’re seeing is there is one new variant and it just explodes, rolls entirely around the world and then there’s another new variant. It feels like wave after wave of pandemic rather than one pandemic that we’re slowly figuring out.”

In scientific terms, a pandemic is an event in which a disease spreads across several countries and affects a large number of people, according to the CDC.

The phrase endemic “refers to the constant presence and/or usual prevalence of a disease or infectious agent in a population within a geographic area,” the agency said.

“Endemic is when the virus is well entrenched, well established in a large population, but to the point where it doesn't disrupt daily life,” said Bulbin, of Catholic Health St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center.

He said the pandemic is still very much a concern for people who are at high risk — 65 and older and those who are immunocompromised patients.

“They're the ones who at, at this point on Long Island, for example, who are making up most of the hospitalizations,” Bulbin said.

For most people, however, masking, required testing and other guidelines have mostly been eliminated, he said. “So that’s clearly progressing towards no disruption of your daily activities,” Bulbin said.

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