President Biden Ends COVID-19 Emergencies May 11 – Boston News, Weather, Sports

WASHINGTON (AP) — 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 gets closer to closing nearly three years after they were first declared normality has returned.

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, was the first to state this a public health emergency on January 31, 2020, and Trump later declared the COVID-19 Pandemic a national emergency y this 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 was passed and signed by Biden last year End a rule that prevented states from throwing people off Medicaida move that millions of people are expected to lose cover after April 1st.

“In some ways, 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, which Pfizer is announcing charge up to $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 tests will also come to an end. And hospitals will not receive additional payments for treating COVID patients.

Legislators extended the flexibility of telemedicine introduced with the COVID-19 outbreak for an additional two years, directing healthcare systems across the country to regularly deliver care via smartphone or computer.

The Biden administration had already considered ending the emergency for the past year, but held back over concerns about a possible “winter spike” in cases and giving providers, insurers and patients ample time to prepare for its end.

Officials said the government will use the next three months to switch response to conventional methods, warning that an immediate end to emergency agencies would “sow confusion and chaos in this critical process.”

“To be clear, the continuation of these emergency declarations through May 11 does not impose any restrictions on individual behavior regarding COVID-19,” the government said. “They are not imposing mask or vaccination requirements. They do not restrict school or business operations. They do not require the use of drugs or tests in response to cases of COVID-19.”

Case numbers are down after a slight spike over the winter holidays and are well below levels of the last two winters – although there has been a sharp fall in the number of tests being carried out for the virus and reported to health authorities.

On Monday, the World Health Organization spoke of the corona virus remains a global health emergency, even as a key advisory body for the group noted that the pandemic may be nearing a “tipping point” where higher levels of immunity can reduce virus-related deaths. China, for example, reported one unprecedented increase in December after most of its COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.

Shortly before the White House announcement, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., accused the President of unnecessarily prolonging the public health emergency to take action to address issues such as canceling some federal student loan debt.

“The country has largely returned to normal,” Cole said Monday, introducing a Republican-backed bill calling for an end to the public health emergency. “Everyday Americans have returned to work and school with no restrictions on their activities. It is time the government recognized this reality: the pandemic is over.”

The House of Representatives was scheduled to vote Tuesday on legislation that would end the public health emergency.

The bill’s author, Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., said he still hopes the House will proceed with a vote. He said he was surprised by the White House’s move but thought the legislation may have played a role in prompting the government to act.

“I think we should move on,” he said late Monday as lawmakers returned to the Capitol. “If for some reason they don’t do it on May 11th, the vehicle is still there for Congress to regain its authority.”

(Copyright (c) 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed.)

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Sarah Y. Kim

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