Seth McCoard gets a Pfizer covid-19 booster shot during a vaccine clinic held by Rescue Inc. at Leland & Gray Middle and High School, in Townshend, Vt., on Sept. 20. (Kristopher Radder / The Brattleboro Reformer)

Seth McCoard gets a Pfizer covid-19 booster shot during a vaccine clinic held by Rescue Inc. at Leland & Gray Middle and High School, in Townshend, Vt., on Sept. 20. (Kristopher Radder / The Brattleboro Reformer)

Comment: Is covid-19 pandemic over? The answer is yes, but …

A health expert, an economist and an education professor walk into the question of where covid has left us.

By William Hauk, Lisa Miller and Wayne Au / For The Conversation

President Joe Biden’s declaration that “the pandemic is over” raised eyebrows and the hackles of some experts who think such messaging could be premature and counterproductive.

But for many Americans who have long since returned to pre-covid 19 activities and are now being forced back into the office, the remark may ring true.

The problem is that what “back to normal” feels like may differ from person to person, depending on the individual’s circumstances and by what criteria they are judging the pandemic to be over. The Conversation asked three scholars of different parts of U.S. society affected by the pandemic — public health, education and the economy — to evaluate just how “over” the pandemic is in their worlds. This is what they said:

Public health: It’s not all black and white.

President Biden has answered the question of whether the pandemic is over with a clear ‘yes,’ but this is not a black and white issue.

It is true that, thanks to widespread immunity from vaccines and infections, the U.S. is in a very different place than the country was even a year ago. But as an epidemiologist, I think the continued occurrence of between 350 and 400 deaths in the U.S. every day and hundreds of deaths per week in other countries around the world still constitutes a pandemic.

I understand the need Biden faces as a public figure to try to succinctly state where the country is and provide some hope and reassurance, but public health experts are still in a situation where no one can predict how the virus will mutate and evolve. These mutations may make the virus less dangerous, but it is also possible that the next variant could be more harmful.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you call the current situation; covid-19 still poses a significant, ongoing risk to the world. Pandemic or not, it is important to continue investing in the development of improved vaccines and bolstering the preparedness of the medical and public health systems. As covid-19 wears on, the risk is that decision-makers will lose sight of these important goals.

Lisa Miller, adjunct professor of epidemiology, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

The economy: Back to a new normal?

As an economic researcher, I can speak to the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on the economy and its lingering effects.

And the good news is that the worst of the pandemic’s impact on the economy ended some time ago. After spiking to a postwar high of 14.7 percent in April 2020 as the ravages of the pandemic were taking its toll, the unemployment rate has been at 4 percent or lower for all of 2022. Notably, in the August employment report, the total number of employed workers in the U.S. exceeded its pre-pandemic high for the first time.

While the labor market has largely recovered, there are still economic ripples from the pandemic that the U.S. will be feeling for some time.

There are still supply-chain difficulties in some key areas, like computer chips. While we might have expected stronger recoveries in this area, geopolitical issues, such at the war in Ukraine, continue to cause problems. As a result, a full recovery may not occur for a while and may hamper efforts to fight higher inflation.

Finally, many Americans may be reevaluating their work-life balance as a result of the pandemic. The aggregate labor force numbers suggest that the “Great Resignation” might be more of a job reshuffle. However, the rise of “quiet quitting” — the phenomena of employees limiting their productivity and not going “above and beyond” — may lead many to conclude that workers are not as intrinsically motivated by their work as they were prior to covid-19.

So while the “pandemic” phase of covid-19 may be over for the economy, the rise of a new normal might be seen as the start of an “endemic” effect. That is, we are no longer in an emergency situation, but the “normal” that we are returning to may differ in many ways from the pre-covid world.

— William Hauk, associate professor of economics, University of South Carolina

The schools: Pandemic exacerbated gaps that will linger.

While it is true that public schools may have largely returned to “normal” operations in terms of no mandatory masking, a return to using high-stakes tests to measure teaching and learning, and in-person attendance policies, schools are not done with the pandemic.

The pandemic-induced traumas that many students have faced at home — through the deaths of friends and family, the impact of long covid, isolation and anxiety brought on by the job insecurity of parents, and unequal access to health care — live inside of them as they attend classes today.

Many students are having to relearn how to be with each other in person and in social and academic settings. Moreover, students in low-income families are still trying to overcome the consequences of inequitable access to resources and technology at home during remote schooling.

The gaps in educational outcomes right now are the same as before the pandemic and appear at the intersection of race, class and immigration. In the same way the pandemic has exacerbated socioeconomic inequalities generally, it has similarly widened already-existing educational inequalities.

Additionally, the pandemic-related strains on the teachers and districts have resulted in staffing shortages around the country, creating increased instability for learning in schools and classrooms.

These problems have been intensified by the pandemic and may impact students — predominantly from lower-income backgrounds — for years to come.

— Wayne Au, professor of education, University of Washington, Bothell

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Sunday, July 21

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Scott Spahr, Generation Engineering Manager at Snohomish County PUD, points to a dial indicating 4 megawatts of power production from one of two Francis turbine units at the Henry M. Jackson Powerhouse on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023, near Sultan, Washington. Some of the water that passes through units 3 and 4 — the two Francis turbines — is diverted to Lake Chaplain, which supplies water to Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Editorial: Amber King best suited for PUD’s 2nd District seat

Among three solid candidates, King’s knowledge of utilities and contracts will serve ratepayers well.

Former President Donald Trump, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, speaks during a campaign event in Doral, Fla., July 9, 2024. The Biden campaign has attacked Trump’s ties to the conservative policy plan that would amass power in the executive branch, though it is not his official platform. (Scott McIntyre/The New York York Times)
Comment: Project 2025’s aim is to institutionalize Trumpism

A look at the conservative policy behind Project 2025 and the think tank that thought it up.

Forum: How much do we really know about ‘bus stop people’?

Our assumptions about people, often fall short of accuracy, yet we justify our divisions based on them.

Voters left with poor options for president

The recent televised debate between former President Trump and President Biden, was… Continue reading

From the Publisher: The Herald’s team is committed to readers

I’m returning as publisher to aid The Herald during its transition and continue its 123-year legacy.

Comment: We need to think hard on political discourse

The attempt on Donald Trump’s life should bring reflection on how we respond to others’ beliefs.

Comment: Vote yes to bring power of Everett port across county

A countywide port district would offer the tools and funding to foster economic development and jobs.

Forum: Port of Everett’s Prop 1 adds bureaucracy and new tax

Its yes campaign claims jobs and projects, but its tax and authority will diminish local control.

Vote 2024. US American presidential election 2024. Vote inscription, badge, sticker. Presidential election banner Vote 2024, poster, sign. Political election campaign symbol. Vector Illustration
Editorial: Return Wagoner and Low to 39th Disrict seats

‘Workhorse’ Republicans, both have sponsored successful solution-oriented legislation in each chamber.

A law enforcement officer surveys the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, the site of the Republican National Convention, on July 14, 2024. (Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times)
Editorial: Weekend’s violence should steel resolve in democracy

Leaders can lower the temperature of their rhetoric. We can choose elections over violence.

A graphic show the Port of Everett boundary expansion proposed in a ballot measure to voters in the Aug. 6 primary election. (Port of Everett).
Editorial: Case made to expand Port of Everett across county

The port’s humming economic engine should be unleashed to bring jobs, opportunity to all communities.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.