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

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors. CNN features the work of The Conversation, a collaboration between journalists and academics to provide news analysis and commentary. The content is produced solely by The Conversation.

President Joe Biden’s statement that “the pandemic is over” raised the eyebrows and frowns on some experts who believe such reports could be premature and counterproductive.

But for many Americans who returned to pre-COVID 19 activities long ago and are now forced to go back to the office, the comment may sound true.

The problem is, what “back to normal” feels like can vary from person to person, depending on the individual’s circumstances and what criteria they judge the pandemic to be over. The Conversation asked three scientists from different parts of American society affected by the pandemic — public health, education and economics — to evaluate how “over” the pandemic is in their world. This is what they said:

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Lisa Miller, adjunct professor of epidemiology, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

President Biden has answered the question of whether the pandemic is over with a clear ‘yes’, but this is not a black and white issue.

It is true that, thanks to widespread immunity to vaccines and infections, the US is in a very different place than it was even a year ago. But as an epidemiologist, I think the persistent occurrence of between 350 and 400 deaths a day in the US and hundreds of deaths a week in other countries around the world still constitutes a pandemic.

I understand the need Biden faces as a public figure to succinctly state where the country is and offer some hope and reassurance, 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 is more harmful.

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Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you call the current situation – COVID-19 still poses a significant, ongoing risk to the world. Pandemic or not, it is important to continue investing in developing improved vaccines and strengthening the preparedness of medical and public health systems. As COVID-19 progresses, there is a risk that decision makers will lose sight of these important goals.

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William Hauk, associate professor of economics, University of South Carolina

As an economic researcher, I can speak about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and its ongoing effects.

And the good news is that the worst impact of the pandemic on the economy ended some time ago. After peaking to a post-war high of 14.7% in April 2020 when the ravages of the pandemic took its toll, the unemployment rate was 4% or lower throughout 2022. workers in the US surpassed the pre-pandemic record for the first time.

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While the labor market has largely recovered, there are still economic ripples from the pandemic that the US will feel for some time to come.

There are still supply chain issues in some key areas, such as computer chips. While we might have expected a stronger recovery in this area, geopolitical issues, such as the war in Ukraine, continue to pose challenges. As a result, a full recovery could be delayed for some time and could hamper efforts to combat higher inflation.

Finally, many Americans may be re-evaluating their work-life balance as a result of the pandemic. The overall workforce figures suggest the “Great Resignation” could be more of a job reallocation. The rise of “quiet quits” – the phenomenon of workers limiting their productivity and not going “above and beyond” – may lead many to conclude that workers are not as intrinsically motivated by their work as they were before COVID-19.

So while the ‘pandemic’ phase of COVID-19 may be over for the economy, the emergence of a new normal could be seen as the start of an ‘endemic’ effect. That is, we are no longer in an emergency situation, but the “normal” we return to may be different from the pre-COVID world in many ways.

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

While it’s true that public schools have largely reverted to “normal” operations in terms of no compulsory masking, a return to using high-stakes tests to measure teaching and learning, and personalized attendance policies, schools aren’t done with the pandemic. .

The pandemic-induced trauma many students have faced at home — through the deaths of friends and family, the impact of prolonged COVID, isolation and anxiety caused by parents’ job insecurity, and unequal access to health care — are alive in them as they take classes today. follow.

Many students need to relearn how to interact personally and in social and academic settings. In addition, students in low-income families are still trying to overcome the consequences of unequal access to resources and technology at home during distance education.

The gaps in educational outcomes today are the same as they were before the pandemic, appearing at the intersection of race, class and immigration. In the same way that the pandemic has exacerbated socioeconomic inequalities in general, it has similarly exacerbated pre-existing educational inequalities.

In addition, pandemic-related pressures on teachers and districts have led to staff shortages across the country, creating more instability for learning in schools and classrooms.

These problems have been exacerbated by the pandemic and could affect students – mainly from lower income groups – for years to come.

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