ROYAL OAK, Mich. (WXYZ) — For the first time ever, President Joe Biden declared that life may be returning to normal after more than two years of battling the coronavirus pandemic.
During a 60-minute interview where he was seen touring the Detroit Auto Show, the president said, "the pandemic is over."
The messaging, while optimistic, has been met with mixed reviews.
Just this summer, Modern Baby in Ferndale took down their masks required sign in their storefront. They said it was just too hard to enforce and sometimes customers would even walk out when they saw the sign.
Owners still expect employees to mask up because in their opinion, COVID-19 is still a threat and they can't afford to be short-staffed.
"Our reaction is there is a little bit of shock to it, right," said John Murray, who runs Modern Baby with his wife.
As small business owners, John and Emily Murray have listened closely to advice from world leaders and public health officials.
"We know a lot of people with COVID right now, so is the pandemic over? I don't know," Emily Murray said.
John Murray agrees.
"Well, COVID is definitely not over. We have 2,600 cases and it is probably much higher," John Murray said. "No one is reporting anymore."
It was only recently that public health officials shifted their focus toward tracking severe illness from COVID-19 rather than overall case counts.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization reported that the number of COVID-19 deaths haven't been this low since March 2020.
"The pandemic has certainly gotten better. We have vaccines to help prevent it or at least to have us prevent serious disease, and we have treatments that help people recover faster," said Dr. Matthew Sims, and infectious disease expert with Beaumont Health Royal Oak.
Sims believes the pandemic has transitioned to an endemic state.
A disease is endemic when its presence becomes steady in a particular region, or at least predictable, as with the seasonal flu.
He says currently, Beaumont Royal Oak has 50 patients with COVID-19 and more than 100 across the whole hospital system.
He says the president's messaging needs to be put in context.
"What I don't want to see is people thinking they don't need vaccines anymore or that we don't have to get tested when we are sick," Sims said.
Bidens remarks were made inside the auto show, where little no guests were masked up.
Some people think there's nothing wrong with giving people hope.
"He may have just embraced that positive energy and said wow, it feels as if it is over on one level," said Miho Suzuki, who lives in Ferndale.
Diego Rosenberg is taking Biden's advice with a grain of salt.
"My impression is that it's not over and he's just trying to create some optimism, but God honest truth, my mom started having COVID yesterday," Rosenberg said.
Widespread infection during the omicron wave is part of the reason so many people are now immune.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "between December 2021 and February 2022, the estimated percentage of the U.S. population with infection-induced antibodies increased from 34% to 58% across all age groups."
Both Oakland and Wayne counties are listed in the medium community level category.
Sims says it's a good time to get the bivalent booster if you haven't already. If you're looking for a vaccine, visit vaccines.gov.