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President Biden ends the COVID-19 emergency on May 11

Washington – President Joe Biden told Congress on Monday that he would end dual national emergencies to tackle COVID-19 on May 11, as most of the world returned to normalcy nearly three years after they were first declared.

The video in the media player is from a previous report.

A move to end national emergencies and public health emergency declarations would formally restructure the federal coronavirus response to treat the virus as an endemic public health threat that could be managed through the agencies’ normal powers.

It comes as lawmakers have already finalized elements of the emergency provisions that have kept millions of Americans locked down during the pandemic. Besides withdrawing most federal COVID-19 relief funds, it would also shift vaccine and therapeutic development away from the direct management of the federal government.

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

Then-US President Donald Trump first declared the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency on March 13, 2020. Biden has repeatedly extended the states of emergency since taking office in January 2021, and they are set to expire in the coming months. The White House said Biden plans to extend them briefly through May 11.

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

Congress has already softened the reach of the public health emergency that has had the most direct impact on Americans, while intensifying political calls to end the declaration. Lawmakers have refused for months to accede to the Biden administration’s request for billions more dollars to extend free COVID vaccines and testing. And the $1.7 trillion spending package passed last year that Biden signed into law ended a rule preventing states from kicking people off Medicaid, a move that is expected to see millions of people lose their coverage after April 1.

Costs of COVID-19 vaccines are also expected to rise 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 booster that has been offered since last fall.

Once the emergency is over, people with private insurance will get some of the costs of vaccinations, tests and treatment, while the uninsured will have to pay those expenses in full.

Lawmakers have already expanded the flexibility of telehealth offered with the hit of COVID-19, leading health care systems across the country to regularly deliver care by smartphone or computer.

The Biden administration had previously considered ending the state of emergency last year, but stalled amid concerns about a potential “winter surge” in cases and providing enough time for providers, insurers and patients to prepare for its end.

A senior administration official said the three months until expiration will mark a transition period as the administration begins “the process of smooth operational winding down of the flexibilities enabled by the COVID-19 emergency declarations.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the announcement ahead of its release.

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

Case numbers have trended downward after a slight bump during the winter break, and are well below levels seen over the past two winters — although the number of tests conducted for the virus reported to public health officials has fallen sharply.

Moments before the White House announcement, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Ok., accused the president of unnecessarily extending the public health emergency to take action on issues such as forgiveness of some federal student loan debt.

“The country is pretty much back to normal,” Cole said Monday, in introducing a Republican-backed bill calling for an end to the health emergency. “Every day, Americans returned to work and school without restrictions on their activities. It’s time for the government to acknowledge this fact: The pandemic is over.”

Copyright © 2023 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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