Almost three years after measures were imposed to curb the spread, President Joe Biden on Monday informed the US Congress that he will end the two national emergencies for addressing COVID-19 on May 11.
This move will formally restructure the government’s response to treat the virus as an endemic threat to public health. The COVID-19 national emergency and public health emergency (PHE) measures were put in place in 2020 by then President Donald Trump.
Trump’s Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar first declared a public health emergency on January 31, 2020. Trump later declared the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency in March. The measures have since been extended by the Biden administration, but some measures have already been ended.
The move would also shift the development of vaccines and treatments away from the direct management of the federal government.
“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 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said in a statement.
When these measures expire, the government will stop paying for vaccines, and some tests and treatments. Instead, they will be transferred to insurance and health plans.
The OMB also said Biden plans to veto a bill that would eliminate COVID vaccine mandates for healthcare providers in some federal programs.
Investigation into government response pending
This week, Republicans are also planning to launch investigations into the government’s response to the pandemic.
More than 1.1 million people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19 since 2020, as per data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The costs of vaccines are expected to rise as the US government stops buying them. Pfizer said it would charge around $130 (€119) per dose. Provisions to deliver healthcare via phone or computer were extended for another two years. But at-home free COVID tests would come to an end.
Biden had previously considered ending the emergency measures, but held off due to concerns of a winter surge. Officials said the next three months would be used to transition the response to normal methods.