The end of the COVID-19 public health emergency

Changes and guidelines regarding the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency on May 11, 2023.

People celebrating outdoors and embracing.
Photo: Lopes.

On May 11, 2023, the federal COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) declaration ended, and many have questions about what this means to them personally and professionally. The end of PHE may impact vaccination, testing, and treatment, as well as interactions with family, friends, coworkers and other community members. Recommended guidelines, what may change and what remains similar to current recommendations are described in this article.

Why is the public health emergency ending?

As a result of individual, community, healthcare personnel and government efforts, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) lists three reasons why the PHE is ending on May 11, 2023. This decision was made after comparing current data with that collected at the end of January 2022.

  • Daily COVID-19 reported cases are down 92%.
  • COVID-19 deaths have declined by over 80%.
  • New COVID-19 hospitalizations are down nearly 80%.

This Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) fact sheet provides information regarding services that will remain available. Other services, vaccination access, insurance coverage, resources and reporting may change, which is particularly important for healthcare providers and epidemiologists.

What will stay the same or similar?

  • The CDC reports that regardless of health insurance or immigration status, vaccines will remain free in the United States.
  • Treatments, such as antiviral medications, will continue to be free of charge as long as supplies last.
  • The DHHS reports that the U.S. government plans to incorporate COVID-19 vaccines and treatments into traditional healthcare coverage. This would align with similar current standard vaccine and treatment coverage for other diseases such as standard childhood immunization (e.g., Hepatitis B; Rotavirus; Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Acellular Pertussis {DTAP}; Poliovirus; Measles, Mumps, and Rubella; etc.)
  • According to the DHHS, authority to issue emergency use authorizations (EUA) will remain. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration can authorize EUAs in times of emergency to provide access to medical services and products such as tests, vaccines, and treatments; Medicare and Medicaid telehealth; Medicaid eligibility redetermination; and the intent to continue extended access available during the PHE to certain medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder.

What will change?

  • The CDC reports that at-home COVID-19 tests will no longer be free of charge. Insurance may cover testing, but private insurance will not be required to pay for the tests. A surplus of free tests may be available after the PHE ends, so make sure to check the Michigan DHHS site for more information.
  • Ongoing data collection and reporting may change due to changes in mandatory reporting.
    • The CDC will continue to collect and report up-to-date COVID-19 indicators, although collecting/reporting sources may differ, such as hospital admissions, deaths, emergency room visits, positive test lab results, wastewater surveillance and vaccines administered.
    • Changes include the addition of COVID-19-related deaths each week and the removal of case and death rates on Data Tracker, positive test data from COVID-19 electronic reporting, and health check-ins and monitoring using V-safe tracking.
    • Changes in EAUs reported by DHHS include certain Medicaid and Medicare waivers; certain COVID-19 guidance documents; limited detection of critical device shortages; and public readiness and emergency preparedness liabilities.

To learn more, explore Michigan State University Extension’s Michigan Vaccine Project website to find event schedules, podcasts, publications, webinars, and videos relating to vaccine education.

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