Joe Biden’s statement this week that the COVID-19 pandemic is over has led to scrambling throughout the administration to walk back his claim, likely in order to salvage the many federal mandates and programs still in place that rely on a health emergency as justification. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky repeatedly refused to confirm whether she agrees with Biden on Thursday.
Walensky appeared for an interview with Terry Moran of ABC News, who asked her: “Dr. Walensky, what was your reaction when you heard President Biden say the pandemic is over, and what do you think of that?”
ABC anchor: "What was your reaction when you heard President Biden say the pandemic is over?"
Rochelle Walensky: "We're in a different place."
"The pandemic is not over?"
Walensky: "We continue to encourage people to … protect themselves."
"I'll take that as a no." pic.twitter.com/PI6Yaq2KKZ
— Washington Free Beacon (@FreeBeacon) September 22, 2022
She deflected by saying the country is “in a different place.” She mentioned schools and businesses reopening, “population immunity,” and protection from vaccines. She stressed that the CDC is “continuing to do everything we can promoting these updated booster shots so that people can get the protection that they need, but recognizing that we are in a much better place than we were a year ago at this time.”
When pressed for a direct response about whether the pandemic is over, she said that the government is continuing to urge people to protect themselves. She said that should be done by getting vaccinated and boosted, and added that there are “tools like Paxlovid” for infected people to protect themselves from “severe hospitalization, and death.”
Even though she refused to provide a direct answer to the simple question about whether the pandemic conditions persist, she went on to say the CDC should work at doing a better job of providing information to the public.
A White House official told reporters earlier this week that Biden’s declaration that the pandemic is over “does not mark a change in policy toward the administration’s handling of the virus, and there are no plans to lift the Public Health Emergency.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday that Biden actually said “that COVID remains a problem, and we’re fighting it.” She added, “We have to continue to make sure that we are fighting this once-in-a-generation pandemic.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) responded that “like clockwork, Biden’s handlers are out in force.”