President Joe Biden has informed Congress that he will end the twin national emergencies for addressing COVID-19 on May 11, 2023, as most of the world has returned to normalcy nearly three years after the emergencies were first declared.
The move to end the national emergency and public health emergency declarations would formally restructure the federal coronavirus response to treat the virus as an endemic threat to public health that can be managed through agencies’ normal authorities.
It comes as lawmakers have already ended elements of the emergencies that kept millions of Americans insured during the pandemic.
Combined with the reduction of most federal COVID-19 relief money, it would also shift the development of vaccines and treatments away from the direct management of the federal government.
Biden’s announcement comes in a statement opposing resolutions being brought to the floor this week by House Republicans to bring the emergency to an immediate end. House Republicans are also gearing up to launch investigations on the federal government’s response to COVID-19.
Then-President Donald Trump’s Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar, first declared a public health emergency on January 31, 2020, and Trump later declared the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency that March.
The emergencies have been repeatedly extended by Biden since he took office in January 2021, and are set to expire in the coming months. The White House disclosed that Biden plans to extend them both briefly to end on May 11.
“An abrupt end to the emergency declarations would create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system for states, for hospitals and doctors’ offices, and, most importantly, for tens of millions of Americans.”Office of Management and Budget
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1.1 million people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19 since 2020, including about 3,700 last week.
The costs of COVID-19 vaccines are also expected to rise steeply once the government stops buying them, with Pfizer saying it will charge as much as $130 per dose. Only 15% of Americans have received the recommended, updated booster that has been offered since last fall.
The Biden administration had previously considered ending the emergency last year, but held off amid concerns about a potential “winter surge” in cases and to provide adequate time for providers, insurers and patients to prepare for its end.
Officials disclosed that the administration would use the next three months to transition the response to conventional methods, warning that an immediate end to the emergency authorities “would sow confusion and chaos into this critical wind-down.”
“To be clear, continuation of these emergency declarations until May 11 does not impose any restriction at all on individual conduct with regard to COVID-19. They do not impose mask mandates or vaccine mandates. They do not restrict school or business operations. They do not require the use of any medicines or tests in response to cases of COVID-19.”Biden administration
COVID Remains A Global Health Emergency
On Monday, the World Health Organization said the coronavirus remains a global health emergency, even as a key advisory panel for the group found the pandemic may be nearing an “inflexion point” where higher levels of immunity can lower virus-related deaths.
Moments before the White House’s announcement, Rep. Tom Cole, accused the President of unnecessarily extending the public health emergency to take action on issues like forgiving some federal student loan debts.
“The country has largely returned to normal,” Cole said, introducing a Republican-backed bill calling for an end to the health emergency.
“Everyday Americans have returned to work and to school with no restrictions on their activities. It is time that the government acknowledges this reality: the pandemic is over.”Tom Cole
The House is scheduled to vote on legislation that would terminate the public health emergency.
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