Is COVID still a pandemic? Local doctors clarify after Biden says 'the pandemic is over'
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois reported 1,767 new COVID cases and five new deaths Tuesday.
The entire Chicago area is seeing some of the lowest COVID community transmission levels since the start of the pandemic. Cook County and all surrounding counties are all in the green low-transmission group. The last time it was that low was earlier this year, in May.
The Illinois Dept. of Public Health says "daily deaths reported on weekends and at the beginning of the week may be low" and "those deaths will be captured in subsequent days."
There have been at least 3,756,708 total COVID cases in the state since the start of the pandemic and at least 34,961 related deaths.
As of Monday night, 1,028 patients in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 118 patients were in the ICU, and 27 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.
The daily case rate per 100,000 population is at 18.3.
A total of 23,747,843 vaccine doses have been administered in Illinois as of Monday and 65.67% of the state's population is fully vaccinated. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 26,220.
Local doctors are weighing in after President Biden said the COVID-19 pandemic is over. They agree we're past the emergency phase, but they have a warning about this fall and winter.
"The pandemic is not over, nor should our efforts be, we need to stay on top of the virus," said Dr. Alfredo Mena Lora, an infectious disease specialist at UIC/St. Anthony Hospital.
Infectious disease doctors were quick to clarify President Biden's remarks during a "60 Minutes" interview where Biden said while COVID remains a problem, "the pandemic is over."
"I think this was a poorly off the cuff remark that has been taken out of context," said Dr. Robert Murphy, a professor of infectious disease at Northwestern University.
Doctors says while the "emergency" phase of the pandemic may be over due to vaccines and treatments, cases around the world remain high enough where the virus continues to meet the definition of a pandemic.
"There are a lot of infections daily, what is not here are the consequences of those infections," Mena Lora said. "Hospitals are not where they were a year ago and that is a great thing."
And doctors say hospitalizations will continue to remain low if people get the new Omicron-specific vaccine. Some fear Biden's comments may deter people from getting another shot.
"We are going in the right direction, but this is not the time to give up," Murphy said. "You give up now and then we are going backwards."
Doctors remind people last summer when cases were down, some were declaring victory until the delta and omicron waves hit, making last winter the worst of the pandemic.
The video in the player above is from a previous report.