President Joe Biden talks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House Monday, Jan. 30, 2023, in Washington, after returning from an event in Baltimore on infrastructure. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Joe Biden told Congress Monday that he will end the two national emergencies to deal with COVID-19 on May 11, as most of the world is living closer to normal nearly three years after they were declared for the first time.
The measure to end public health and national emergency declarations would formally restructure the federal response to the coronavirus, treating the virus as an endemic public health threat that can be handled through normal authorities. of the agencies.
The announcement comes as lawmakers have already ended emergency measures that have kept millions of Americans in lockdown during the pandemic. Combined with the withdrawal of most of the federal COVID-19 relief money, it would also take the development of vaccines and treatments out of the direct management of the federal government.
Then-President Donald Trump first declared the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency on March 13, 2020. Biden has repeatedly extended the emergency since he took office in January 2021. The White House said the president plans to extend them briefly until May 11.
“An abrupt end to emergency declarations would create great chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system: for states, hospitals and doctors’ offices, and, most importantly, for tens of millions of Americans,” the Office said. Administration and Budget.
Congress has already mitigated the scope of the public health emergency that had the most direct impact on Americans, as political calls intensified to end the declaration. Lawmakers have for months refused to comply with the Biden administration’s request for billions more dollars to extend free COVID tests and vaccines. And the spending package passed last year and signed into law by Biden ended a rule that prohibited states from taking people off Medicaid, a move that is expected to cause millions of people to lose their coverage after April 1.
FILE PHOTO. A child receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Smoketown Family Wellness Center in Louisville, Kentucky, USA. November 8, 2021. REUTERS/Jon Cherry
The costs of COVID-19 vaccines are also expected to skyrocket once the government stops buying them, with Pfizer saying it will charge up to $130 per dose. Only 15% of Americans have received the updated and recommended booster that has been offered since last fall.
After the emergency expires, people with private insurance will have some out-of-pocket costs for vaccines, tests and treatment, while the uninsured will have to pay those costs in full.
Lawmakers expanded telehealth flexibilities that were introduced when COVID-19 hit, prompting health care systems across the country to regularly provide care over the phone or computer.
The Biden administration had previously considered ending the emergency last year, but halted amid concerns about a possible “winter surge” in cases and to provide adequate time for providers, insurers and patients to prepare. for his end.
A senior administration official said the three months until expiration would mark a transition period in which the administration will “begin the process of a smooth operational reduction of the flexibilities enabled by the COVID-19 emergency declarations.”
More than 1.1 million people in the US have died from COVID-19 since 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including some 3,700 last week.
Case counts have been trending downward after a slight increase over the winter holidays and are significantly below levels seen over the past two winters, although the number of tests conducted for the virus and reported to public health officials has decreased considerably.
Moments before the White House announcement, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, accused the president of needlessly extending the public health emergency to take action on issues such as the forgiveness of some federal student loan debt.
“The country is largely back to normal,” Cole said Monday, introducing a Republican-backed bill calling for an end to the health emergency. “Ordinary Americans have returned to work and school with no restrictions on their activities. It is time for the government to recognize this reality: the pandemic is over.”
With information from AP
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