President Joseph R. Biden Jr. informed the U.S. Congress on Monday that he will end COVID-19 emergencies on May 11, three years after the federal government declared two emergencies – A national emergency and a public health emergency to respond to COVID-19.
The COVID-19 national emergency and public health emergency (PHE) were declared by the Trump Administration in 2020, and they are currently set to expire on March 1 and April 11, respectively.
However, the administration plans to extend the emergency declarations to May 11, and then end both emergencies on that date.
“This wind-down would align with the Administration’s previous commitments to give at least 60 days’ notice prior to termination of the PHE,” the White House said.
Furious U.S. lawmakers have already ended some key portions of the emergencies that kept millions of Americans insured during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they plan to terminate all emergencies with H.R. 382 and H.J. Res. 7, a move that the Biden administration opposes, saying that “ending these emergency declarations in the manner contemplated by H.R. 382 and H.J. Res. 7 would have two highly significant impacts on our nation’s health system and government operations.”
The end of the twin emergencies means that the virus would be treated as an endemic threat to public health that would be managed through agencies already in place.
It also means that the development of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 will be shifted away from the direct management of the federal government.
In a statement by the White House Office of Management and Budget, the administration explained why it is ending the COVID-19 emergencies.
It wrote, “The COVID-19 national emergency and public health emergency (PHE) were declared by the Trump Administration in 2020. They are currently set to expire on March 1 and April 11, respectively. At present, the Administration’s plan is to extend the emergency declarations to May 11, and then end both emergencies on that date. This wind-down would align with the Administration’s previous commitments to give at least 60 days’ notice prior to termination of the PHE.
“To be clear, continuation of these emergency declarations until May 11 does not impose any restriction at all on individual conduct with regard to COVID-19. They do not impose mask mandates or vaccine mandates. They do not restrict school or business operations. They do not require the use of any medicines or tests in response to cases of COVID-19.
“However, ending these emergency declarations in the manner contemplated by H.R. 382 and H.J. Res. 7 would have two highly significant impacts on our nation’s health system and government operations.
“First, an abrupt end to the emergency declarations would create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system — for states, for hospitals and doctors’ offices, and, most importantly, for tens of millions of Americans. During the PHE, the Medicaid program has operated under special rules to provide extra funding to states to ensure that tens of millions of vulnerable Americans kept their Medicaid coverage during a global pandemic. In December, Congress enacted an orderly wind-down of these rules to ensure that patients did not lose access to care unpredictably and that state budgets don’t face a radical cliff. If the PHE were suddenly terminated, it would sow confusion and chaos into this critical wind-down. Due to this uncertainty, tens of millions of Americans could be at risk of abruptly losing their health insurance, and states could be at risk of losing billions of dollars in funding. Additionally, hospitals and nursing homes that have relied on flexibilities enabled by the emergency declarations will be plunged into chaos without adequate time to retrain staff and establish new billing processes, likely leading to disruptions in care and payment delays, and many facilities around the country will experience revenue losses. Finally, millions of patients, including many of our nation’s veterans, who rely on telehealth would suddenly be unable to access critical clinical services and medications. The most acutely impacted would be individuals with behavioral health needs and rural patients.
“Second, the end of the public health emergency will end the Title 42 policy at the border. While the Administration has attempted to terminate the Title 42 policy and continues to support an orderly lifting of those restrictions, Title 42 remains in place because of orders issued by the Supreme Court and a district court in Louisiana. Enactment of H.R. 382 would lift Title 42 immediately, and result in a substantial additional inflow of migrants at the Southwest border. The number of migrants crossing the border has been cut in half, approximately, since the Administration put in place a plan in early January to deter irregular migration from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Haiti. The Administration supports an orderly, predictable wind-down of Title 42, with sufficient time to put alternative policies in place. But if H.R. 382 becomes law and the Title 42 restrictions end precipitously, Congress will effectively be requiring the Administration to allow thousands of migrants per day into the country immediately without the necessary policies in place.
“The Administration strongly opposes enactment of H.R. 382 and H.J. Res. 7, which would be a grave disservice to the American people.”