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Is the pandemic over? We asked an economist, an education expert and a public health specialist for their views


Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors. CNN presents the work of The Conversation, a collaboration between journalists and scholars to provide analysis and commentary on the news. Content is produced solely by The Conversation.

President Joe Biden’s statement that “the pandemic is over” raised eyebrows and hackles from some pundits who think such messages could be premature and counterproductive.

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

The problem is that the feeling of “returning to normal” can differ from person to person, depending on the circumstances of the individual and the criteria by which they judge the pandemic to be over. The Conversation asked three scholars from different parts of American society affected by the pandemic — public health, education and economics — to assess how “over” the pandemic is in their world. Here is what they said:

READ MORE: When should you receive the new COVID-19 reminder and flu vaccine?

Lisa Miller, Adjunct Professor of Epidemiology, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

President Biden answered the question of whether the pandemic is over with a clear “yes,” but that’s not a black-and-white question.

It is true that thanks to widespread immunity from vaccines and infections, the United States is in a very different place than the country was even a year ago. But as an epidemiologist, I believe that the persistence of between 350 and 400 deaths in the United States 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 say where the country is and give some hope and comfort, 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 may be more harmful.

Ultimately, whatever you call the current situation – COVID-19 still poses a significant and ongoing risk to the world. Pandemic or not, it is important to continue investing in the development of improved vaccines and to strengthen the preparedness of medical and public health systems. As COVID-19 drags on, the risk is that policy makers lose sight of these important goals.

READ MORE: How do pandemics end? History suggests diseases are fading

William Hauk, Associate Professor of Economics, University of South Carolina

As an economics researcher, I can talk about 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 hitting a post-war high of 14.7% in April 2020 as the ravages of the pandemic took their toll, the unemployment rate was 4% or lower for all of 2022. Notably, in the August jobs report, the total number of workers employed in the United States surpassed its pre-pandemic peak for the first time.

While the labor market has largely recovered, there are still economic repercussions from the pandemic that the United States will feel for some time.

Supply chain challenges remain in some key areas, such as computer chips. While we might have expected stronger recoveries in this area, geopolitical issues, such as the war in Ukraine, continue to cause problems. As a result, a full recovery may not occur for some time and hamper efforts to combat rising inflation.

Finally, many Americans may be reassessing their work-life balance in the wake of the pandemic. Aggregate labor force figures suggest the “big resignation” could be more of a job reshuffle. However, the rise of “quiet stop” – the phenomenon of employees limiting their productivity and not going “over and above” – may lead many to conclude that workers are not as intrinsically motivated by their work as they used to be. before COVID-19.

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

READ MORE: How to disagree on COVID without making enemies – advice from a psychologist

Wayne Au, Professor of Education, University of Washington, Bothell

While it is true that public schools may have largely returned to “normal” operations in terms of mandatory non-masking, a return to using high-stakes tests to measure teaching and learning, and in-person attendance policiesschools aren’t done with the pandemic.

The pandemic-induced trauma that many students have faced at home – through the death of friends and family members, the impact of a long COVID, the isolation and anxiety brought on by the Parents’ job insecurity and unequal access to health care – lives inside of them as they attend class today.

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

The gaps in current educational outcomes are the same as before the pandemic and appear at the intersection of race, grade and immigration. In the same way, the pandemic has exacerbated socioeconomic inequalities in general, it has also widened already existing educational inequalities.

Additionally, the pandemic-related pressures on teachers and neighborhoods have resulted in staffing shortages across the country, creating increased instability for learning in schools and classrooms.

These issues have been intensified by the pandemic and could impact students – mostly from low-income backgrounds – for years to come.

READ MORE: How the pandemic has changed what it means to have a ‘good death’

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