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‘Emergency’ or not, covid is still killing people

Here’s what doctors advise to stay safe

With around 20,000 people dying of covid in the United States since the start of October, and tens of thousands more abroad, the covid pandemic clearly isn’t over. However, the crisis response is, since the World Health Organization and the Biden administration ended their declared health emergencies last year.

Let’s not confuse the terms “pandemic” and “emergency.” As Abraar Karan, an infectious disease physician and researcher at Stanford University, said, “The pandemic is over until you are scrunched in bed, feeling terrible.”

Pandemics are defined by neither time nor severity, but rather by large numbers of ongoing infections worldwide. Emergencies are acute and declared to trigger an urgent response. Ending the official emergency shifted the responsibility for curbing covid from leaders to the public. In the United States, it meant, for example, that the government largely stopped covering the cost of covid tests and vaccines.

But the virus is still infecting people; indeed, it is surging right now.

With changes in the nature of the pandemic and the response, KFF Health News spoke with doctors and researchers about how to best handle covid, influenza, and other respiratory ailments spreading this season.

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