Amid declining COVID-19 hospitalizations and an encouragingly low death rate from the virus,President Joe Biden declared on 60 Minutes that “the pandemic is over.” He acknowledged that “we still have a problem with COVID” and that “we are still doing a lot of work on it,” but even Biden’s measured optimism was unpalatable to UChicago epidemiologist and COVID advisor Emily Landon.
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Landon skewered Biden for “doubl[ing] down on this idea that we don’t really need to worry about COVID anymore” and for suggesting that “the current magnitude of infections, death, and disability as a result of the disease is normal.”
Landon was similarly bullish on continued masking and additional booster requirements. In Biden’s interview, he addressed masking by stating the obvious: “No one is wearing masks, and everybody seems to be in pretty good shape.”Landon countered that this rhetoric “discourages people from putting on a mask in a high-risk situation” and from receiving “really essential boosters.”
Moreover, in Landon’s eyes, intimations that the pandemic is waning are not only misguided but also “insensitive,” as they ignore those most vulnerable to COVID—including older adults, immunocompromised people, and people of color.
Landon encouraged both continued vigilance against COVID-19 and attempts to repair past damage. “We need to start repairing and acknowledging some of the damages that have happened,” she said.
On that front, Landon might engage in some self-reflection. She has consistently dismissed the relationship between extended school closures and learning loss, despite mountains of evidence supporting the notion that “school closures have a large, persistent, and unequal effect on learning.”
Most recently, Landon retweeted a hitherto unsupported conjecture that COVID-related learning loss is unrelated to school closures and instead arises from “brain fog,” a symptom of “long COVID.”
Persistent symptoms affect around 5% of children who test positive for COVID, and fewer than 1% report any recurring cognitive symptoms.
Emily Landon concluded her BuzzFeed remarks by commenting on the American psyche: “I really don’t think that people are quite as fatigued by the pandemic as they are of change.” Of course, Landon was far less wary of “change” while promoting a radical restyling of how children learned, how businesses operated, and how Americans interacted with one another.
In fact, far from inducing fatigue, a change in UChicago’s pandemic leadership would be most refreshing.
Jack Pfefferkorn is a staff writer for the Chicago Thinker. A fourth year at the College, he is majoring in chemistry and economics. He is particularly interested in economic history and Supreme Court jurisprudence. In his free time, Jack enjoys following sports, debating, and reading about American history. Follow him on Twitter @JackPfefferkorn.