Clarification: The Pandemic is Not Over!

Last month’s (Sept 2023) Work/Life article entitled ‘Rejuvenation Now that the Pandemic is Over‘ and the Question of the Month that asked readers “How are you staying refreshed and rejuvenated now that the pandemic is over?” seems to have caused alarm. 

The article begins by stating:

“On May 5 of this year, more than three years after COVID-19 was designated as a pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared an end to the global Public Health Emergency for COVID-19. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared the same for the United States, effective on May 11, 2023.”

Many of our readers were upset and stated emphatically that the pandemic is not over. We concur and wish to clarify that we too believe that the pandemic is not over. The fact is that we are in the process of shifting from the pandemic phase, which is the unhindered global spread of an infectious disease, to the endemic phase of COVID-19. Though an endemic is a constant presence in a community, it differs from a pandemic because the virus is somewhat contained and not spreading out of control across the world. It is not currently over-stressing the healthcare infrastructure. 

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) website gives the following statements:

On 5 May 2023, more than three years into the pandemic, the WHO Emergency Committee on COVID-19 recommended to the Director-General, who accepted the recommendation, that given the disease was by now well-established and ongoing, it no longer fit the definition of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). This does not mean the pandemic itself is over, but the global emergency it has caused is, for now. A Review Committee to be established will develop long-term, standing recommendations for countries on how to manage COVID-19 on an ongoing basis.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agrees with WHO, as the Department’s website gives the following statements:

Based on current COVID-19 trends, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is planning for the federal Public Health Emergency (PHE) for COVID-19, declared under Section 319 of the Public Health Service (PHS) Act, to expire at the end of the day on May 11, 2023. Our response to the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, remains a public health priority, but thanks to the administration’s whole-of-government approach to combatting the virus, we are in a better place in our response than we were three years ago, and we can transition away from the emergency phase.

To be clear, the emergency phase of the pandemic is over. We apologize for alarming and upsetting many of our readers. Our intention was not to suggest that people are no longer getting COVID-19 or experiencing long-term effects of COVID. Nor was it our intention to suggest that individuals throw caution to the wind and abandon safety measures. We understand that people are still being infected with the virus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that “the virus that causes COVID-19 is highly transmissible and can be spread by people who have no symptoms and who do not know they are infected. Particles containing the virus can travel more than six feet, especially indoors and in dry conditions with relative humidity below 40%. The CDC estimates that over fifty percent of the spread of the virus is from individuals with no symptoms at the time of spread.” Based on statistics from the CDC, we know that people are still suffering and being hospitalized due to COVID. People are also still dying from COVID. 

Our concern has always been for the health, safety, and well-being of those who work in libraries. We do not recommend that employers or individuals lower their defenses when it comes to COVID-19. We understand that more people are engaging in leisure activities that allow them to encounter and interact with those outside of their homes. We encourage people to stay vigilant as restrictions are relaxed. Continue to practice safety measures that will keep you, your family, friends, coworkers, and communities healthy and safe.

The goal of the article was simply to ask about self-care practices and about how people are staying rejuvenated. We believe that it is important for us to all maintain those self-care practices that were so critical during the height of the pandemic. Even as we engage in more social activities, we must continue to do those things that promote physical, emotional, and mental health and well-being. We affirm once again that the pandemic is not over. Please continue to be safe.

Thank you for your comments regarding the article entitled ‘Rejuvenation Now that the Pandemic is Over’ included in the September 2023 issue of Library Worklife

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.gov)

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA.gov)

World Health Organization (WHO)