To Be Over

[ Posted Tuesday, September 20th, 2022 – 15:13 UTC ]

Joe Biden gave an interview to 60 Minutes last week, and in doing so he made some news. He reiterated his previously-held position on Taiwan (which his aides tried to walk back afterwards), he did not unequivocally say that he was running to get re-elected president in 2024, and he declared: "The pandemic is over." Which, of course, set off a frenzy of: "See? He said it's over!" versus: "It is most definitely not over!" from all sides. But what Biden actually said was a little more subtle than anyone is really giving him credit for.

Here is the part of the interview where the subject came up. It is short -- no followup question was asked. Here's the whole exchange (from the CBS transcript of the show):

SCOTT PELLY: Mr. President, [this is the] first Detroit Auto Show in three years. Is the pandemic over?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We're still doing a lotta work on it. It's-- but the pandemic is over. if you notice, no one's wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it's changing. And I think this is a perfect example of it.

What Biden really meant is right there for everyone to see: the pandemic phase is over, but COVID is definitely not over. But most news media just went with the soundbite: Biden's first four words. Which made him seem like he was pronouncing something sweeping -- which obviously wasn't true if you read his next seven words.

Biden is largely right. There are still areas of the country where most people voluntarily mask up for any indoor event, but they are now few and far between. Most of the country has indeed moved on. The pandemic is over, to most Americans.

The pandemic was marked by the fear of sudden death and by major disruptions to daily life (too numerous to count, from standing in line at 6:00 A.M. to buy toilet paper to proof of vaccination cards to remote working and schooling). Those disruptions are now all over, for the most part (although some of the beneficial ones, such as remote work, do remain, because people saw them as a good thing and an improvement). Not everywhere, but in enough places that life can be said to have truly regained some pre-pandemic normalcy. This has happened for better or worse, but it has indeed happened. The pandemic is over for most people.

A lot of this can be traced to most people reaching the psychological breaking point where they say to themselves: "I am so over COVID! I want a normal life, even if I do run some risk of getting sick. The vaccines are better, the treatments are better, the chance of major hospitalization or death has gone way down, and I just want it all to be over. So I am declaring that I personally am over it!" Again, for better or worse, most people have already reached this point. Some of them reached it earlier than others, but most people have hit that breaking point by now.

COVID is still an epidemic, and it is still killing over 400 Americans each and every day. It has not gone away. It is not "over" with us. But we have gotten lucky in a lot of ways. After the immense spike caused by the Omicron variant, there has been no new emerging variant that has made the disease either (1) more transmissible, or (2) more deadly. This could still happen at any time (see: Darwinism), but so far it hasn't yet.

We've also gotten lucky that the last wave wasn't as intense as the previous waves (Omicron especially). Look at the charts. Compared to last summer's surge, this summer's was a lot milder. More people are vaccinated and boosted, and more people have already gotten sick and thus have antibodies. We may not have fully achieved "herd immunity," but we have at least made a lot of progress on that front.

Politically, it would be near-impossible for any politician (even in a deep blue state) to return us to the lockdown measures that were implemented at the start of the pandemic, no matter how bad things get. If a new variant emerges (Sigma, or Upsilon, or whatever) that is exponentially deadlier than what we've yet seen, then eventually the politicians will be forced to take drastic measures, but a whole lot of people will have to die first to overcome the public's reluctance to ever go back to the pandemic way of life again. For better or worse, the people are over such things.

Biden addressed all of this in his answer. He pointed out, at the Detroit Auto Show: "...if you notice, no one's wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it's changing. And I think this is a perfect example of it." He is clearly saying that people's perception of it all has changed. People are psychologically over it.

None of this will assuage the fears of the experts or regular people who still religiously mask up and use hand sanitizer hourly. Around 60,000 people still test positive for the virus every day, after all. And that number is probably an undercount, now that people have the ability to test themselves at home for free. Many people test positive, deal with the symptoms, and then return to normal life without ever reporting it to any official, in other words. So the risk of catching COVID certainly hasn't gone away. We're not over that.

But it has to be seen as an epidemic now, not a pandemic. Because Biden is right. Most people have indeed gotten so tired of being fearful all the time that they almost embraced the risk and decided they were just over being so stressed out about COVID. Maybe this is a stupid thing to do, but it has indeed happened for most Americans.

Biden was right, what he said was common sense, and he was acknowledging the reality of the country today. That didn't stop his detractors from vociferously disagreeing with him, but no matter how much they disagree, the fact of life is that most people really are over the pandemic.


A footnote, here, to close on. When I sat down to write today and pondered a headline to use, a song popped into my head. It was written by the band Yes and is called (unsurprisingly) "To Be Over." It's a song on an album of theirs that didn't do all that well (Relayer) because it was pretty dense, even for prog rock. So it's not very well-known. But here are a few of the lyrics, because they seemed perfectly appropriate to this column:

We go sailing down the calming streams
Drifting endlessly by the bridge
To be over, we will see, to be over

Do not suffer through the game of chance that plays
Always doors to lock away your dreams
Think it over, time will heal your fear, think it over

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


17 Comments on “To Be Over”

  1. [1] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    I subscribe to both WaPo and NYT, and both dumped hard on Joe's first four words. I felt like they were treating me like I'm some kind of idiot.

    You performed a service in today's column, pointing out what MSM failed to acknowledge. Good job, CW!

  2. [2] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    This is why politicians tend to be very precise and measured in their wording. It's also why people tend to rebel against politicians and their wording. Joe is in many ways an anti-trump, but one of the most important ways is that he speaks plainly, in spite of the cost of doing so.

    So yes, I'm sure a more political speaking politician would have hedged more. But that wouldn't necessarily have played better with the voting public.

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    The best thing about Joe Biden is that he says what he means. The worst part about Joe Biden is that he means what he says.


    It's just one of the reasons why I have always loved Joe Biden so much.

  4. [4] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    I realize life in the big cities and coastal population centers bears little relation to life in big tater country, but I've maintained from the git-go that the very word itself was a mispronunciation. We NEVER HAD a "pandemic". around here. What it actually was was a Dempanic!!

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    The song that popped into my head was PRiSM's (and Jim Vallance's aka Rodney Higgs's) It's Over, naturally.

    But, I would have to agree that Yes tune's lyrics are better for the occasion of the Pandemic phase of Covid being over.

    Which reminds me, I have something special planned for my part of this Sunday evening's festivities ... a celebration of a couple or three artists whose lives have been intertwined over the last half century or so.

    And, here is a special treat for a stormy Wednesday I just stumbled upon ...
    To Be Over - YES

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    That was a nice play on words and letters but, it always seemed to me to be quite a disrespectful take on the Pandemic, on those who died and on those who fought like Hell and risked their own lives to keep their fellow human beings alive, whether in countries like the US or in much harder places to survive during the best of times.

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    So [YES], I'm sure a more political speaking politician would have hedged more. But that wouldn't necessarily have played better with the voting public.

    If I trace my admiration for Biden back to its origins, I am sure - absolutely, positively, unequivocally - that it dates back to the Iran-Contra hearings in 1987 and his plain speaking contributions. Those hearings also mark the beginnings of my interest in US foreign policy.

    Biden was running for president for the first time during those days when I first became aware of how asinine media coverage could be - of the hearings and of Biden. After watching much of those hearings and then reading about it in the newspapers and watching broadcast news, it seemed to me, at times, that the media, in general, were watching some whole other committee hearings! Thus began my healthy skepticism of the mainstream media and my thirst for a wide variety of sources whenever I wanted to know more about an issue. That was the first lesson that Biden taught me. :)

    The media storyline on Biden could always be described as asinine, with a few notable exceptions, of course! Which explains, I think, why the perception of Biden by the American people has been so very warped over the years and decades.

  8. [8] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    Stucki- [4]

    Considering Idaho had to send COVID cases to just about every neighboring state because they could not handle it themselves, I think it less a "dempanic" and more a complete failure of conservative governance...

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


  10. [10] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    I doubt the varacity of your claim.

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    From the latest WHO regional report for last week on new Covid deaths for last week:

    The number of new weekly deaths reported in the Region decreased by 5% as compared to the previous week, with over 4000 new deaths reported.

    The highest numbers of new deaths were reported from the United States of America (2601 new deaths; <1 new death per 100 000; +5%),

    Brazil (487 new
    deaths; <1 new death per 100 000; -12%),

    and Canada (245 new deaths; <1
    new death per 100 000; similar to the previous week).

  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I doubt the varacity of your claim.

    Veracity or verocity? Which is it?

  13. [13] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:


    Here is just one of many stories.

  14. [14] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    I'm still skeptical. There aren't that many people in "North Idaho" Perhaps they wete sending sick moose or elk to WA hospitals??

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Really, CRS ... can you give us a freakin' break!?

  16. [16] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    Sorry, you guys dont' merit a "break"

  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I did not post that [15]! Someone is impersonating me and it's not just happening here!!!!

    Very weird things going on ...

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