US to keep COVID public health emergency through January
The COVID-19 public health emergency will remain in effect until at least mid-January, after the Biden administration did not notify states and health providers of any plans to lift it.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) promised to give stakeholders 60 days’ notice if it intended to let the public health emergency expire. That deadline was Friday.
In October, HHS extended the public health emergency until Jan. 11. The public health emergency was first declared in January 2020 and has been renewed every 90 days since.
“The COVID-19 Public Health Emergency remains in effect, and as HHS committed to earlier, we will provide a 60-day notice to states before any possible termination or expiration,” an HHS spokesperson said.
Daily deaths and case rates have been falling, though the U.S. continues to see more than 300 people dying due to the coronavirus each day.
The declaration helped get treatments and vaccines approved at breakneck speed and enabled the administration to ensure Americans did not have to pay for them. The extension also ensures that policies such as expanded Medicaid benefits, telehealth coverage, and extra payments to hospitals and doctors will continue.
Public health officials are expecting another coronavirus surge this winter as people gather indoors, where the virus spreads more easily. White House health officials have been urging people to get the updated variant-specific COVID-19 vaccine and have said the extent of any surge depends on the precautions people take and the vaccination rates.
President Biden has urged Congress to provide billions more in aid to pay for COVID-19 vaccines and testing, though lawmakers have been reluctant to provide any additional funding.
Once the public health emergency ends, the federal government will stop paying for COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments, shifting the costs to the commercial sector.
Republicans in Congress have been pressing the administration to end the public health emergency, arguing there is no more justification for it to continue, especially in the wake of Biden’s remark in September that the pandemic is “over.”
—Updated at 6:54 p.m.