The two COVID emergency measures declared by the White House at the start of the pandemic will end in May.
President Joe Biden informed Congress of the plan on Monday, as part of a statement opposing House Republicans' plan to immediately end the protections.
“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,” the Office of Management and Budget explained in the statement.
Instead, the Biden administration plans to extend both protections until May 11.
After that, COVID-19 would be treated as an endemic threat managed by more typical public health authorities.
Some of the expected changes have already slowly rolled out, as most designated federal COVID relief money has been spent and emergencies that allowed more Americans to have insurance have ended, the Associated Press reported.
And lawmakers have not approved the Biden administration's request for billions to extend COVID testing and vaccine coverage. Meanwhile, a spending package passed last year eliminated a rule that prevented states from discontinuing COVID-era Medicaid coverage. That coverage will end April 1, the AP reported.
Last but not least, the federal government will no longer have control over vaccines and treatments, which could ratchet up prices. Vaccine maker Pfizer has already said it will charge up to $130 per dose of its vaccine, which had until now been paid for by the federal government.
The initial national emergency was declared by then-President Donald Trump on March 13, 2020. It has been extended by Biden since January 2021.
The Biden administration had held off on an early end to the emergency, to wait for a possible winter surge of COVID cases, the AP reported.
But House Republicans are done waiting.
“The country has largely returned to normal,” Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, said Monday. “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.”
COVID case numbers saw a slight increase over the winter, but are below levels of the past two winters, the AP reported. However, testing for the virus is also down.
Since the pandemic began, 1.1 million people have died in the United States, including 3,700 last week, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only 15% of Americans have received an updated booster shot, though they have been available for months, CDC data shows.
The World Health Organization has more on COVID-19.
SOURCE: Associated Press