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COVID-19 will no longer be a public health emergency. What does that mean?

Is COVID-19 over? May 11 will be the official end of the public health emergency as Americans return to normal life, but it will also change the comforts they’ve been used to

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An illustration for the omicron variant.

Alex Cochan, Deseret News

On Monday, the Biden administration declared that May 11 would be the end of the United States’ public health emergency connected with the COVID-19 virus and in its place, a National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan will transition the country out of the emergency status.

Since the pandemic began and former President Donald Trump called the public health emergency in 2020, that status has been renewed every 90 days, as reported by The New York Times. President Joe Biden renewed it again in January but got some pushback from Republicans in the House, who called for an immediate end to the emergency status.

“There is no ongoing COVID-19 emergency to justify the continuation of the national emergency declaration,” Rep Paul A. Gosar, R-Ariz., said in a statement after introducing a resolution to end the declaration, reported The Washington Post. “Cases are down and most Americans have returned to a pre-pandemic normalcy. This hardly sounds like a country under a national emergency.”

But with the emergency status came policies and regulations that made things like free testing, vaccinations and Paxlovid — a COVID-19 medication — available to everyone in the United States. The White House expressed concern about the impact of a sudden change where these benefits would be dropped.

“An abrupt end to the emergency declarations would create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system — for states, for hospitals and doctors’ offices, and, most importantly, for tens of millions of Americans,” said the White House in a statement.

To soften this blow for civilians, Congress extended telehealth visit benefits and emergency use coverage of Paxlovid by Medicare until 2024, per The Washington Post. Hospitals will also have to make adjustments to procedures for bed occupancy and billing, which had more flexibility under the emergency declaration.

Jennifer Kates — a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation — told The New York Times that while this plan will give health care professionals time to transition, she worries about how it might cause Americans to let their guard down against the virus.

“To the extent that it might let people let their guard down from one day to the next, that could raise some challenges,” she said.

While about 69% of the United States’ population has been vaccinated, still more than 500 people in the United States die every day from the virus, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.