HAMILTON HEIGHTS, Manhattan (WABC) -- President Joe Biden says that the COVID-19 pandemic is over in the United States.
"The pandemic is over," he said in an interview with "60 Minutes" that was filmed in Detroit. "We still have a problem with COVID. We're still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over. If you notice, no one's wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape, and so I think it's changing."
The statement caught many in the medical community off guard, as more than 350 Americans are still dying each day from the coronavirus, with tens of thousands getting sick.
Still, most Americans have ditched masks, and the politicalization of COVID is a factor in the mid term elections.
The tide has turned in large part because of vaccines, but with COVID still ever-present, health officials are continuing to encourage people to still get their booster shots in New York.
New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra received both a flu shot and a COVID booster at the SOMOS clinic in Hamilton Heights Monday.
"It is the updated vaccine, not necessarily new, because it does much of what the previous vaccines do," Becerra said. "But it does it better."
The new boosters provide even more protection because they have been updated to match COVID variants that are currently dominant, as well as the original COVID-19 strain.
Additionally, therapeutics the can treat patients with COVID all make a difference in allowing people to start living like the did before the pandemic.
"We are truly in a different place today than were in March 2020 or March 2021, or even six to eight months ago," Dr. Vasan said.
According to recent Department of Health data, less than 2% of Black and 3% of Latino children under 5 years old have received only one dose of the COVID vaccine, city-wide.
Experts say the stark contrast in vaccine rates even within a single family has intensified the vulnerabilities in New York City's poorer communities.
But both officials cautioned that COVID remains a problem, especially for the unvaccinated.
"We've done so much to get us back to a place where we can live our lives, but we have to continue to do the things that protect us," Becerra said. "I believe the president made it clear, COVID is still here. We just have to make sure we're smart."
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