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Is the COVID pandemic over? Local healthcare workers weigh in

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Posted at 8:24 PM, Sep 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-19 23:27:17-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — In an interview on 60-minutes Sunday night, President Biden said he believes "the pandemic is over."

"The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We're still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over," Biden said.

ABC 10News spoke with San Diego County healthcare workers on whether they feel the same.

"To us, it's really not quite over yet. We still need to be careful," said Dr. William Tseng with Kaiser Permanente.

"We in healthcare are tired. We've been dealing with this for over two years so we would love it to be over," said Joshua McCabe, RN, the Emergency Services Director for Sharp Memorial Hospital.

It's been two and a half years since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.

McCabe recalls how he felt caring for patients in the beginning.

"I think the biggest fear was that it could cause death to us working on the frontlines and that we could bring something that could kill our families home," McCabe said.

McCabe said he doesn't feel that way anymore with vaccines readily available and treatments to help fight the virus.

He added the hospital is no longer overwhelmed.

"The fact that we've gone down from like dozens... I think I remember 70 at one point down to just ten. The workload has diminished considerably," he said.

However, he said he doesn't believe people should let their guard down.

"For emergency departments across Sharp Healthcare, over 25 percent of our patients coming in are related to influenza-like illness and many of those are COVID," he said.

Currently, the CDC shows half of the country, including San Diego County, at low-risk community levels.

Masks and social distancing are no longer required in most places.

Last week, the state lifted a weekly COVID testing requirement for unvaccinated teachers and school staff.

Teachers also no longer have to show proof of vaccination.

Dr. Tseng said the number of people dying from the virus has decreased tremendously since February of this year.

"At that point, the mortality rate was 3,000 a day now it's 300 to 400 a day," Dr. Tseng said.

But Tseng said 400 people a day is still too many to declare the pandemic over.

He said healthcare workers are anticipating another winter surge.

"I'm worried about it in conjunction with the flu," Dr. Tseng said.

Tseng and McCabe couldn't say when they think we'll get past the pandemic, but they both believe vaccines and boosters are key to ending it.

"I think it's what's got us to this point and prevented a bigger disaster from happening in our community," McCabe said.

WHO is responsible for declaring an end to the pandemic.