Biden tells Congress he plans to end COVID emergency declarations on May 11
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden told Congress Monday that he would end twin national emergencies to combat COVID-19 on May 11, as most of the world has returned to closer to normal nearly three years after their first declaration.
The decision to end national emergency and public health emergency declarations would formally restructure the federal coronavirus response to treat the virus as an endemic public health threat that can be handled by normal agency authorities.
It comes as lawmakers have already ended elements of the emergencies that have kept millions of Americans safe during the pandemic. Combined with the withdrawal of most federal COVID-19 relief funds, this would also move the development of vaccines and treatments away from the direct management of the federal government.
Biden’s announcement comes in a statement opposing resolutions introduced this week by House Republicans to end the emergency immediately. House Republicans are also preparing to launch investigations into the federal government’s response to COVID-19.
Then-President Donald Trump first declared the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency on March 13, 2020. Emergencies have been repeatedly extended by Biden since taking office in January 2021 and are expected to expire in the coming months. The White House said Biden plans to extend them briefly until May 11.
READ MORE: COVID-19 pandemic has improved, but remains a global health emergency, says WHO
“An abrupt end to emergency declarations would create large-scale chaos and uncertainty across the entire healthcare system – for states, for hospitals and doctors’ offices, and, most importantly, for tens of millions of people. ‘Americans,’ the Office of Management and Budget said in an administrative policy statement.
Congress has already blunted the scope of the public health emergency that has had the most direct impact on Americans, as political calls to end the declaration have intensified. Lawmakers have for months refused to meet the Biden administration’s demand for billions more dollars to expand free COVID vaccines and testing. And the $1.7 trillion spending package passed last year and signed into law by Biden ended a rule that barred states from kicking people out of Medicaid, a move that is expected to see millions lose their coverage after April 1.
The costs of COVID-19 vaccines are also expected to skyrocket once the government stops buying them, with Pfizer saying it will charge up to $130 per dose. Only 15% of Americans have received the recommended and updated reminder offered since last fall.
After the emergency expires, people with private insurance will have to pay for vaccines, tests and treatments, while the uninsured will have to pay those expenses in full.
Lawmakers extended telehealth flexibilities that were introduced when COVID-19 hit, leading the nation’s health systems to routinely deliver care via smartphone or computer.
READ MORE: FDA proposes switching to annual COVID-19 booster shots for most Americans
The Biden administration previously considered ending the emergency last year, but waited amid concerns about a possible “winter surge” in cases and giving providers, insurers and patients enough time to prepare for its end.
A senior administration official said the three months until expiration would mark a transition period during which the administration “will begin the process of smoothly operationally reducing the flexibilities allowed by the COVID emergency declarations. -19”. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the announcement ahead of its release.
More than 1.1 million people in the United States have died from COVID-19 since 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including about 3,700 as of last week.
The number of cases has tended to fall after an uptick during the winter holidays and is significantly lower than levels seen over the past two winters – although the number of tests being carried out for the virus and reported to health officials public has fallen sharply.
Moments before the White House announcement, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., accused the president of unnecessarily prolonging the public health emergency to take action on issues like canceling some federal student loan debt.
“The country is largely back to normal,” Cole said Monday, introducing a Republican-backed bill calling for an end to the health emergency. “Everyday Americans have returned to work and school with no restrictions on their activities. It’s time for the government to recognize this reality: the pandemic is over.