President Joe Biden of the United States has told Congress that on May 11, his administration would formally cease two national emergencies declared to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, reorganizing the federal response to the virus as an endemic public health hazard.
The decision was made on Monday in a statement opposing motions presented to the floor this week by House Republicans to remove the emergency immediately. Republicans in the House are also preparing to initiate investigations into the federal government’s reaction to the virus.
“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,” the Office of Management and Budget wrote in a Statement of Administration Policy.
The news comes as legislators have already repealed some of the emergency provisions that kept millions of Americans insured throughout the pandemic. The move would also allow the response to be coordinated through the regular authority of public health organizations.
The move, together with the removal of the majority of federal COVID relief funds, would also transfer vaccine and treatment development away from the direct administration of the federal government.
During the administration of then-President Donald Trump, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency in response to COVID on January 31, 2020. Trump declared the pandemic a national emergency in March 2020.
Biden has frequently extended the measures since taking office in January 2021. The Biden administration considered removing the emergency last year, but decided against it due to fears about a potential “winter surge” in cases and to give providers, insurers, and patients more time to prepare.
Since 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has documented 1.1 million COVID fatalities in the United States, despite the fact that the death rate has decreased considerably since vaccines were widely available. According to the agency, about 3,700 people died from the virus last week.
Many federal COVID projects have already been stymied by US legislators, who have refused for months to fund the Biden administration’s request for billions more dollars to expand free immunizations and testing.
COVID-19 vaccination prices are expected to rise after the government stops purchasing them, with Pfizer estimating a $130 per dose charge. Only 15% of US citizens have received the recommended, updated booster, which has been available since last year.
Free at-home COVID testing will also be stopped, and hospitals will not be paid for treating patients once the emergency has ended.
The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global health emergency on Monday, despite the fact that a key advisory body for the organization found the pandemic may be reaching an “inflection point” where increasing levels of protection might reduce virus-related mortality.
Biden’s remark comes as the House of Representatives prepares to vote on measures to end the public health emergency on Tuesday.