President Biden wants to end COVID-19 emergencies on May 11th

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden told Congress Monday that he will end the two national emergencies to combat COVID-19 on May 11 as most of the world moves closer to normality nearly three years after they were first declared is.

The move to end the national emergency and public health declarations of emergency would formally restructure the federal response to the coronavirus to treat the virus as an endemic public health threat that can be managed by normal government agencies.

It comes as lawmakers have already ended elements of the emergencies that have kept millions of Americans insured during the pandemic. This, combined with drawing most of the federal COVID-19 relief funds, would also shift vaccine and treatment development out of direct federal government management.

Biden’s announcement comes in a statement opposing resolutions this week by House Republicans to end the emergency immediately. House Republicans are also preparing to launch inquiries into the federal government’s response to COVID-19.

Then-President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, first declared a public health emergency on January 31, 2020, and Trump later declared the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency in March. The emergencies have been repeatedly extended by Biden since taking office in January 2021 and are scheduled to phase out in the coming months. The White House said Biden plans to briefly extend both until May 11.

“An abrupt end to the declarations of emergency would create widespread chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system — for states, for hospitals and physicians’ offices, and most importantly for tens of millions of Americans,” the Office of Management and Budget wrote in an administrative policy statement.

More than 1.1 million people in the United States have died from COVID-19 since 2020, including about 3,700 in the past week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Congress has already softened the reach of the health emergency that has hit Americans most directly, as political calls for the declaration to end mount.

Lawmakers have refused for months to meet the Biden administration’s call for billions more dollars to expand free COVID vaccines and testing. And the $1.7 trillion spending package passed and signed by Biden last year put an end to a rule preventing states from throwing people off Medicaid, a move that is expected to see millions of people out of action after May 1 April will lose their cover.

“In a way, the Biden administration is catching up on what many people in the country have been experiencing,” said Larry Levitt, executive vice president of health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Even so, hundreds of people are still dying a day from COVID.”

Still, some things will change for Americans once the state of emergency ends, Levitt stressed.

The cost of COVID-19 vaccines is also expected to skyrocket 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 shot that has been available since last fall.

People with private insurance might have some out-of-pocket expenses for vaccines, especially if they go to an off-network provider, Levitt said. Free at-home COVID testing will also come to an end. And hospitals will not receive additional payments for treating COVID patients.