White House walks back Biden comments on Covid pandemic being ‘over’ after Fauci and scientists hit back

President Joe Biden on Tuesday clarified his claim that the Covid-19 pandemic was “over” in remarks to a group of Democratic Party donors at a New York City fundraiser on the eve of his annual address to the United Nations General Assembly.

Mr Biden had declared that the pandemic had come to a close in an interview with CBS News’ 60 Minutes on Sunday. In the days since, he has come under fire from activists and medical experts, including his chief medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci, who say downplaying the threat posed by Covid at this point writes off the concerns of persons with disabilities and others who are still vulnerable to harm from the coronavirus.

The president acknowledged the criticism when speaking to donors. He then added that what he meant to say was that the pandemic “basically is not where it was”.

In his comments to 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley, Mr Biden had tempered his declaration that the pandemic was “over” by noting that it was “still a problem” that his administration was still doing “a lot of work” on it.

But he said the lack of widespread mask wearing and the return of large events such as the annual Detroit Auto Show he was attending at the time shows how “everybody seems to be in pretty good shape”.