End of COVID-19 Public Health Emergency: A Look Back and What’s To Come

Image by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared the end of the COVID-19 state of emergency on May 11. They made this decision based on current COVID trends.

The HHS released a fact sheet outlining accomplishments and updating the current flexibilities that had been put in place during the COVID emergency declaration. 

Over 270 million people in the U.S. have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. Also, 15 million courses of COVID treatment have been administered, along with 750 million COVID tests shipped straight to households. 

50 million tests have been administered in-person, whether that is at a pharmacy or a community-based site. 

It’s these, and many other measures, that have lowered the risk of COVID. Deaths from COVID have declined by 95 percent from Jan. 2021, and hospitalizations have declined by 91 percent. 

While COVID will no longer be an emergency, seniors, immunocompromised people and people with disabilities still continue to be affected by COVID, so it remains a public health priority. 

What will be affected by the end of the state of emergency?
Access to COVID vaccines and treatments like Paxlovid and Lagevrio will not be affected. Vaccines are still accessible to Americans with no cost, and treatments are the same. However, eventually, the government will no longer be purchasing or distributing COVID treatments or vaccines. It is at that point that payment and coverage might change, but, as of now, they are still free-of-cost from the federal government. 

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) emergency use authorizations will also not be affected. Any emergency use authorizations made during the state of emergency still stand.

Some Medicare and Medicaid waivers and flexibilities will end. During the state of emergency, certain emergency authority waivers and regulations were created to expand access to care and expand facility capacity. Now that hospitalizations are down, expanded capacity is no longer needed. 

The end of the state of emergency is something like the end of an era. Since it was declared in 2020, over a million Americans died from COVID, with over 100 million confirmed cases. However, it is important to remember that, while the state of emergency is over, some things will not be changing, and certain groups of people still remain at risk.