As expected, President Biden is officially ending the COVID-19 health emergency in the U.S. TODAY. Biden first announced that May 11th would be the date back in January.
This comes less than a week after the WHO ended the GLOBAL health emergency. (That’s the World Health Organization. Not the BAND.) (???)
Here’s what this change means:
1. If you’ve been looking for a sense of pandemic closure . . . and want the opportunity to say “THE PANDEMIC IS OVER!” . . . this is probably as close as you’re going to get.
The reality is: There are no fixed borders on a pandemic. Covid isn’t going anywhere, but the damage it’s doing to humans is declining . . . so we’re going to treat Covid as a disease that’s here to stay, rather than an emergency.
The good news is: Epidemiologists and medical historians believe the virus has transitioned into something that’s more predictable and less dangerous.
2. COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations are all trending down . . . but there are still more than 75,000 cases reported every week in the U.S., and 1,100 deaths per week. Which is still too high.
3. There are a lot of changes with laws and rules that were all based on Covid being classified as a “medical emergency.”
For example, for immigration, the U.S. can no longer deny asylum and migration claims for public health reasons.
For low-income families, the work-related requirements for food and medical assistance programs that were paused during the pandemic will be UN-paused.
For health tracking, the CDC will lose access to some of the surveillance data it used to assess and report Covid risk . . . as well as data on vaccinations.
For insurance, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is asking insurers to reimburse people for over-the-counter tests and lab testing . . . but they aren’t required to.
The same goes for future vaccines and antiviral treatments like Paxlovid. The current federal supplies will continue to be given out for free . . . and once they’re used up, they will transition to the commercial market.
Medicare and Medicaid coverages will also be impacted. Basically, people will start paying for some things that they didn’t have to pay for during the emergency.
4. There will likely be new variants and case surges in the future. But hopefully they will be seasonal and relatively minor for most people.
But in the event that something bad happens, the end of the public health emergency does not impact the FDA’s ability to grant new emergency use authorizations for medical products.
5. Finally, vaccination requirements for federal workers . . . and international travelers entering the U.S. . . . will no longer be in effect.