WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden notified Congress Monday that he will end a dual national emergency in response to COVID-19 on May 11, as much of the world comes nearly three years after first declaring one. returned to normal afterwards.
The move to end the national emergency and public health emergency declarations would formally restructure the federal coronavirus response as an endemic threat to public health that can be managed through agencies’ normal purview.
Meanwhile, lawmakers have ended the emergency element of insuring millions of Americans during the pandemic. Combined with the reduction in much of the federal COVID-19 relief funding, it would also take the development of vaccines and treatments out of the direct federal government.
Biden’s statement came in a statement opposing a resolution submitted by House Republicans this week to immediately end the emergency. House Republicans are also preparing to launch an investigation into the federal government’s response to COVID-19.
Alex Azar, then-President Donald Trump’s secretary of health and human services, first declared a public health emergency on Jan. 1. 31, 2020, Trump later declared the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency March of that year. Since taking office in January 2021, the state of emergency has been extended several times by Biden and will expire in the next few months. The White House said Biden plans to briefly extend both until May 11.
“The abrupt end of the emergency declaration will create widespread confusion and uncertainty throughout the health care system — for states, hospitals and physician offices, and most importantly, for tens of millions of Americans,” the Office of Management and Budget Written in a statement of administrative policy.
More than 1.1 million people in the United States have died from COVID-19 since 2020, including about 3,700 last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As the political calls to end the proclamation grow, Congress has reduced the reach of public health emergencies that most directly affect Americans. For months, lawmakers have resisted meeting the Biden administration’s demands for billions more to extend free COVID vaccines and testing.The $1.7 trillion spending plan passed last year and signed into law by Biden ended a rule that prevented states from kicking people out of Medicaida move expected to leave millions of people without insurance after April 1.
“In some ways, the Biden administration is catching up to what a lot of people in this country have been going through,” said Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “That said, hundreds of people are still dying from COVID every day.”
Still, Leavitt noted that once the emergency is over, some things will change for Americans.
The cost of the COVID-19 vaccine is also expected to soar once the government stops buying it, with Pfizer saying it will charge as much as $130 per dose. Only 15% of Americans have received a recommended update booster since last fall.
People with private insurance may have to pay out-of-pocket for the vaccine, especially if they go to an out-of-network provider, Leavitt said.Free Home COVID Tests will also come to an end. Hospitals will not receive additional fees for treating COVID patients.
Lawmakers did extend the telehealth flexibilities introduced when COVID-19 hit for another two years, leading health care systems across the country to routinely deliver medical care via smartphone or computer.
The Biden administration had previously considered ending the state of emergency last year, but delayed it over concerns about a possible “winter surge” in cases and giving providers, insurers and patients enough time to prepare for the end.
Officials said the government would spend the next three months transitioning the response to conventional methods, warning that an immediate end to emergency authorities “would sow the seeds of confusion and chaos during this critical shutdown.”
“To be clear, the continuation of these emergency declarations until 11 May will not impose any restrictions on the behavior of individuals in relation to COVID-19,” the government said. “They’re not mandating masks or vaccinations. They’re not restricting schools or businesses. They’re not requiring any medications or tests to respond to COVID-19 cases.”
The number of cases is trending down after a slight uptick over the winter break and is significantly lower than it has been over the past two winters — despite a sharp drop in the number of tests for the virus and reports to public health officials.
On Monday, the World Health Organization said the coronavirus remained a global health emergencyThe pandemic may be approaching an “inflection point” where higher levels of immunity could reduce virus-related deaths, a key advisory panel to the group found.China, for example, reported an unprecedented surge in In December, after most COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.
Moments before the White House announcement, Rep. Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole accused the president of needlessly prolonging the public health emergency in order to act on issues such as forgiveness of some federal student loan debt.
“The country is pretty much back to normal,” Kerr said on Monday, introducing a Republican-backed bill calling for an end to the health emergency. “Every day Americans are returning to work and school with no restrictions on their movement. It is time for the government to acknowledge this reality: the pandemic is over.”
The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on legislation to end the public health emergency on Tuesday.
The bill’s author, Rep. Kentucky Republican Brett Guthrie said he still hopes the House will be able to vote. He said he was surprised by the White House’s move but thought the legislation may have played a role in prompting the administration to act.
“I think we should move on,” he said later Monday, as lawmakers returned to the Capitol. “If for some reason they don’t do so on May 11, Congress can still take back its powers.”
AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro contributed.