President Joe Biden intends to end the national and public health emergencies Covid-19 on May 11, the White House announced on Monday.
The White House, in an administration policy statement announcing opposition to two Republican measures to end emergencies, said national emergencies and public health emergencies declared in response to the pandemic would be extended a final time until May 11 .
“This suspension will be consistent with the administration’s previous commitments to provide at least 60 days’ notice before ending (a public health emergency),” the statement said.
The statement added: “To be clear, the extension of these emergency declarations until May 11 does not impose any restrictions on individual behavior regarding 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 drugs or tests in response to cases of COVID-19.
The statement came in response to two measures before the House that would end the public health emergency and the national Covid-19 emergency.
The administration has argued that the bills are unnecessary because it intends to end the emergency anyway. The White House also noted that passing the measures before May 11 would have unintended consequences, such as disrupting the administration’s plans to end certain policies that were authorized by the emergency.
The White House said it will extend the Covid-19 state of emergency one last time to ensure an orderly shutdown of key agencies that states, health care providers and patients have relied on during the pandemic.
A White House official cited the successful vaccination campaign and the decline in Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths as justification for lifting the emergency declarations. The official said the final extension will allow for a smooth transition for healthcare providers and patients, and noted that healthcare facilities have already begun preparing for that transition.
The administration is actively reviewing the flexible policies that were authorized under the public health emergency to determine which can remain in place after it is lifted on May 11.
The public health emergency has enabled the government to provide many Americans with free Covid-19 tests, treatments and vaccines, as well as offer enhanced welfare benefits to help the nation cope with the pandemic and minimize its impact.
For example, it allowed most Americans covered by Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance plans to get free Covid-19 tests and vaccines during the pandemic. Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries also had certain therapeutic treatments, such as monoclonal antibodies, fully covered.
Once the public health emergency is over, many Americans will have to start paying for these items.
However, the federal government has been preparing to shift Covid-19 care to the commercial market since last year, in part because Congress has not authorized additional funding to buy additional vaccines, treatments and tests.
The public health emergency also means extra funds for hospitals, which receive a 20 percent increase in the Medicare rate for treating Covid-19 patients.
But several of the most significant improvements to public assistance programs are no longer tied to the public health emergency. Congress cut the bond in December as part of the fiscal 2023 government funding package.
Most notably, states will now be able to begin processing Medicaid redeterminations and disenrolling residents who are no longer eligible starting April 1.
As part of the Covid-19 relief package passed in March 2020, states were prohibited from kicking people off Medicaid during the public health emergency in exchange for additional federal funds. Since then, Medicaid enrollment has skyrocketed, and millions are expected to lose coverage once states begin culling the rolls.
In addition, food stamp recipients received an increase in benefits during the public health emergency. This additional aid will end from March, although several countries have already stopped providing it.
This story has been updated with additional details.