It’s been a long three years.
Most Americans have never focused so intensely on public health issues than they have during this period. And while many continue to wrestle with this deadly disease, we’ve turned a corner on the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The public health emergency pertaining to COVID-19 will expire at the end of today. The declaration made Jan. 31, 2020, in accordance with Section 319 of the Public Health Service Act gave the government vital tools to address the growing crisis. In addition, the government will allow the national emergency first issued March 13, 2020, will expire by the day’s end.
The Biden administration also recently announced that vaccination requirements for federal employees, federal contractors and international air travelers will cease today. This will coincide with the decision by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to begin ending their vaccination requirements for Head Start educators, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services-certified health care facilities and certain non-citizens at the land border.
“Since January 2021, COVID-19 deaths have declined by 95%, and hospitalizations are down nearly 91%. Globally, COVID-19 deaths are at their lowest levels since the start of the pandemic,” according to a May 1 news release from the White House announcing the end of the vaccination requirements. “Following a whole-of-government effort that led to a record number of nearly 270 million Americans receiving at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, we are in a different phase of our response to COVID-19 than we were when many of these requirements were put into place.”
The end of these measures will affect government agencies as well as private businesses and organizations. In a story published Jan. 31 by Time magazine, public health authorities explained what will occur once these mandates expire.
Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice and community engagement at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, “notes that when the emergency declarations end, more than just access to COVID-19 services will be affected. The funding made available through the declarations made it possible to continue covering millions of people under Medicaid, even if their eligibility had changed; the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that anywhere from [5 million] to 14 million people could lose Medicaid coverage if states deem they are no longer eligible when this provision ends,” the article reported. “COVID-19 vaccines and boosters will continue to be covered for people with private insurance when given by in-network providers, but according to an analysis by KFF, people may have to pay out-of-pocket if they get their shots from providers outside of their covered network. People with Medicare will continue to receive free vaccines, which are covered under Medicare Part B through the [Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security] Act, a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by Congress in 2020. Medicaid beneficiaries will also continue to receive free vaccines. Uninsured people will no longer be able to access free vaccines through state Medicaid programs, which had received expanded federal funding to cover these services for the uninsured.”
The manner in which tests and treatments for COVID-19 are funded may be affected. People should look into what implications this holds for them.
The fact that improving conditions have allowed the government to end these measures is welcome news. This has been a distressing experience, and it’s good to regain some semblance of normalcy.
But the virus is still spreading and mutating around the world, and this is no time to become careless. More than 1 million Americans have died due to COVID-19. Ongoing caution is advised to ensure we don’t have to return to stricter measures.
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