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COVID-19 public health emergency ends today. What changes?

Today, the World Health Organization, along with the Biden Administration, is lifting the COVID-19 public health emergency.

YORK, Pa. — Today, the World Health Organization (WHO), along with the Biden Administration, is lifting the COVID-19 public health emergency. 

Pandemic-related programs have already started to come to an end ahead of the May 11 deadline. However, a few policies will stay the same while others change. 

The WHO said COVID-19 no longer qualifies as a global emergency, marking a symbolic end to the devastating coronavirus pandemic that triggered once-unthinkable lockdowns, upended economies worldwide, and killed at least 7 million people worldwide.

Dr. John Goldman, infectious disease specialist at UPMC, said that although WHO is ending the public health emergency, COVID-19 still exists and will not go away. The public health emergency only says that health experts do not have an understanding and control of coronavirus.

“It’s really a reflection of what’s happening with the pandemic and how the pandemic is turning into an 'end-demic,'” said Dr. Goldman. “When this disease first appeared in 2020, it spread very quickly, caused a lot of severe illnesses, a lot of hospitalization… we aren’t seeing that anymore.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 95% of the population has preexisting immunity to coronavirus. This means that the body is now responding quicker and stronger to COVID-19 due to the population being exposed to the virus or receiving the vaccine. 

“When you have preexisting immunity, it is a much less severe form of the disease, and it acts much more like things we’re used to—like the flu, where the people who get sick tend to be people who are elderly,” said Dr. Goldman

Although COVID-19 is not over, some things will change. At-home tests will no longer be free and will only be available through insurance. There will be places that will offer free testing, but it will no longer be covered by insurance companies after Sept. 30, 2024.

National reporting of COVID-19 will be reported until April 2024. The COVID-19 cases and deaths will no longer be highlighted on the data tracker; however, data will still be collected.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, access to COVID-19 vaccinations and certain treatments, such as Paxlovid and Lagevrio, will generally not be affected. 

To help keep communities safe from COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services remains committed to maximizing continued access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

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