“Covid is not over. The pandemic is not over yet,” said a senior Biden official. “There’s no point bringing it up [declaration] given what we see on the ground in terms of cases.”
An HHS spokesman declined to comment, and people with knowledge of the matter warned that the situation could still change before August 1. 15 deadline for making a decision on the continuation of the declaration.
The Biden administration is increasingly pointing to the availability of Covid vaccines and treatments as proof that vaccinated and revaccinated Americans can live with the virus in relative safety. But even with this new stance, many administration health officials remain wary of the message that an end to the public health emergency will be sent at a time when the number of patients exceeds 100,000 a day.
“It will end as soon as the state of emergency is over,” said one senior administration official, summarizing the internal attitude towards the declaration.
The state of emergency also granted powers that allowed the administration to expand access to Medicaid, green-light vaccines more quickly, and offer free tests and therapeutics. If the emergency were to end, these flexibilities would need to be rolled out — a complicated process that hospitals and public health groups have warned could undermine their ability to treat Covid patients.
The federal government has continuously extended the declaration since the first cases of Covid infection appeared in the US in January 2020. its emergency organs.
However, the debate around the continuation of the declaration became more contentious. With the widespread availability of vaccines and treatments and lack of hope that the administration could eradicate Covid, health officials over the past few months have increasingly discussed when this phase-out should occur and what it should look like.
In the latest round of discussions, some officials favored the declaration expiring in October, provided the administration successfully rolls out the next round of vaccines and averts a spike in cases, two people familiar with the matter said. The end of the state of emergency this year could also be a pre-election demonstration that the country has indeed entered a new phase in the fight against the pandemic.
But such a move is likely to draw a fierce pushback from the health industry and draw criticism from public health groups at the forefront of efforts to fight the virus and vaccinate more Americans.
Some health officials also feared that an official end to the public health emergency would dampen any lingering sense of urgency in Congress to allocate more money for the Covid response. The administration’s request for additional billions of dollars to replenish its stockpile of vaccines, tests and treatments has stalled in the Senate for several months, even as officials warn that a lack of funding could hinder their ability to continue fighting the pandemic.
With reporting by Erin Banquo.