After President Joe Biden said the coronavirus pandemic was "over" in an interview Sunday, many people were left wondering how to reconcile his comment with the fact that the U.S. is still averaging about 500 Covid deaths every day.
But disease experts said debating whether the pandemic is over overshadows a more important concern: the reality that Covid will remain a leading cause of death in the U.S. indefinitely.
"It’s likely, when we think of the causes of death in our society, that Covid’s on the list probably forever,” said Dr. Bob Wachter, the chair of the University of California, San Francisco’s department of medicine.
Covid was the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2020, after heart disease and cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The same was true last year, provisional CDC data shows. Since April, Covid deaths have stayed relatively flat, at a weekly average of around 300 to 500 per day. If the trend continues, the U.S. could expect 113,000 to 188,000 deaths a year from Covid, putting it on par with Alzheimer’s, chronic lower respiratory diseases and stroke.
Flu, by comparison, kills about 12,000 to 52,000 people annually. Flu and pneumonia combined were the ninth-leading cause of death in 2020; they fell out of the top 10 last year.