U.S. plans to end public health emergency for COVID in May

The end of the emergency, planned for May 11, will bring about a complex set of policy changes and signals a new chapter in the government’s pandemic response.

The White House said that the nation needed an orderly transition out of the public health emergency, which has been in effect for all of President Biden’s time in office. Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration plans to let the coronavirus public health emergency expire in May, the White House said Monday, a sign that federal officials believe the pandemic has moved into a new, less dire phase.

Millions of Americans have received free COVID tests, treatments and vaccines during the pandemic, and not all of that will continue to be free once the emergency is over. The White House wants to keep the emergency in place for several more months so hospitals, health care providers and health officials can prepare for a host of changes when it ends, officials said.

An average of more than 500 people in the United States are still dying from COVID-19 each day, about twice the number of deaths per day during a bad flu season. But at the three-year mark, the coronavirus is no longer upending everyday life to the extent it once did, partly because much of the population has at least some protection against the virus from vaccinations and prior infections.


Still, the White House said Monday that the nation needed an orderly transition out of the public health emergency. The administration said it also intended to allow a separate declaration of a national emergency to expire on the same day, May 11.

The announcement came on the eve of a scheduled vote in the House on a bill that would immediately end the public health emergency. The bill, called the Pandemic Is Over Act, is one of several pandemic-related measures that the Republican-controlled chamber is scheduled to consider this week.

The public health emergency was first declared by the Trump administration in January 2020, and it has been renewed every 90 days since then. The Biden administration had pledged to alert states 60 days before ending it.

Ending the emergency will prompt complex changes in the cost of COVID tests and treatments that Americans are accustomed to getting for free. Any charges they face will vary depending on whether they have private insurance, Medicare coverage, Medicaid coverage or no health insurance. What state they live in could also be a factor.

Still, the consequences may not be quite as dramatic as public health experts once feared. Medicaid enrollment expanded greatly during the pandemic because low-income Americans were kept in the program for as long as the public health emergency was active.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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