President Biden urged attendees at a Manhattan fundraiser for the Democratic Party on Tuesday to get their booster shots after he acknowledged taking heat for saying the pandemic is “over” in an interview with the CBS show “60 Minutes.”
Mr. Biden noted the criticism he had received for the comments, which have sparked Republican backlash over his request that Congress fork over another $22 billion in emergency pandemic relief ahead of the looming fiscal deadline.
“But it basically is not where it was,” he said before adding his plug for getting the jab.
On Sunday, Mr. Biden was more confident when asked point blank by reporter Scott Pelley: “Is the pandemic over?”
“The pandemic is over,” Mr. Biden replied. “We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lotta work on it. It’s — but the pandemic is over.”
The statement was in-line with a shift in Washington toward treating the virus as a manageable threat rather than a crisis as deaths and hospitalizations decline steadily. Even some of the most stringent national and state rules — from New York to New Zealand — have been increasingly wound down in recent weeks.
But the remarks were at odds with his COVID response coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha’s statement at a White House press briefing less than a fortnight earlier.
“The pandemic isn’t over,” Dr. Jha said on Sept. 6. “We will remain vigilant, and of course, we continue to look for and prepare for unforeseen twists and turns.”
The U.S. still designates COVID-19 as a public emergency. The World Health Organization also considers the virus a public health emergency, though WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said the pandemic phase is coming to a close.
Progressives took to social media to chide Mr. Biden for putting to bed the nation’s fears over the virus.
Kentucky state Rep. Attica Scott lamented that “Democrats keep playing these games with our lives.”
“You don’t get to just declare a global pandemic over,” the Democratic lawmaker told the president on Twitter.
Republicans also seized on the comments from the other direction — berating Democrats’ request for billions more in coronavirus funding, waiving student debt under coronavirus-emergency, laws and for keeping in place vaccine and mask mandates — all despite the pandemic being “over.”
“Now that Biden says the pandemic is over, he should END the military COVID vax mandate and STOP making young children wear masks in Head Start!” Rep. Mary Miller of Illinois tweeted.
Tuesday’s event which was held at the home of Democratic activist and designer Henry Munozwas attended by New York City Mayor Eric Adam, actor Robert De Niro and about 100 other guests.
• Dave Boyer contributed to this report.