“What [Biden] 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. “People should not be cavalier that we’re out of the woods,” he added.
In a “60 Minutes” interview that aired on Sunday night, Biden was asked about the trajectory of COVID-19 in the United States.
“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 declared.
Earlier this month, the White House asked Congress for an additional $47 billion in emergency funding to deal with COVID-19, monkeypox, and the Ukraine conflict. Of that figure, the largest request is about $22.4 billion in COVID-19 funding, which would support research on vaccines, testing, preparations, and treatment.
But his comment to the CBS show prompted Democrats to scramble on Monday to shape the narrative around Biden’s messaging.
“I think what the president was trying to say is that the worst of the pandemic is over,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) told Fox News, saying that some still suffer from so-called “long COVID.” “The way I would phrase it is the worst of the pandemic is over,” Khanna said.
“COVID is not over,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) told reporters on Monday when asked about Biden’s remarks. “I don’t know what he meant … some people use ‘pandemic’ or ‘epidemic’ or other phrases. And he said that COVID isn’t over, the pandemic is over. But the way I look at it, COVID isn’t over.”
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) agreed with Kaine’s assessment.
“The variants are still out there. We are all hoping that it’s over [but] nobody is going to predict with certainty that it is. I’m not,” Durbin told ABC News.
Republicans used Biden’s comment in the interview to argue that additional COVID-19 relief funding is not needed. Previously, GOP lawmakers have signaled they aren’t willing to back the White House’s latest request.
“Despite Americans having largely returned to normal life, which you acknowledged when you noted that attendees at the Detroit Auto Show were not wearing masks, your Administration continues to request un-offset emergency funding from Congress, enforce vaccine mandates, and maintain federal emergency declarations that cost taxpayers billions of dollars,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) wrote in a letter to the Biden administration this week.