Despite COVID-19 still being a thorn in the side of Americans, President Joe Biden will end the public health emergency in May.
The Biden administration will turn its focus to managing the virus as a seasonal respiratory disease. The public health emergency allowed hospitals and programs such as Medicaid more flexibility in addressing high patient volumes. However, a federal provision passed in December will allow Medicaid to begin declining patients in April. The Health and Human Services Department will give states two months’ notice before ending the program, making for a seamless transition.
Republican lawmakers initially wanted to end the emergency suddenly. However, the Office of Management and Budget pushed back against this, explaining that it would kick off harmful effects throughout the healthcare system. Hospitals and medical facilities would almost certainly face immense pressure due to payment delays, which could cause patients to lose care.
Since January 2020, the public health emergency has been extended every 90 days in the wake of evolving strains, which have proven stronger each time. As of January 2023, over one million Americans have died from the virus, with over 100 million cases being reported worldwide.
While cases may be down overall thanks to prior lockdown measures and the COVID-19 vaccines, just weeks ago, WHO said the virus should still be treated as a global health emergency. The latest XBB variant is spreading throughout the United States, worrying health officials, and may result in the health emergency being extended once more.