Experts say it’s too early to end the COVID state of emergency

Key points to remember

  • The US Senate recently voted to end the emergency declaration due to COVID-19, and the White House has pledged to veto it.
  • Ending the emergency declaration now would be premature, experts have said.
  • The lifting of the emergency declaration will have a major impact on the healthcare system and the temporary policies put in place, which would affect many Americans.

Earlier this month, the US Senate vote in favor of ending the COVID-19 national state of emergency, which was declared in March 2020. Almost immediately, the White House pledged to veto the bill if it reached the office of the President Joe Biden.

“Actions by Congress to abruptly and prematurely end these authorities would be a reckless and costly mistake,” the White House statement said.

Experts said it was too early to end the national emergency declaration. However, when this statement is ever lifted, it could affect many COVID-19 specific policies and protections.

Is this the right time to end the state of emergency?

The US government declared a national emergency about two years ago because the COVID-19 pandemic posed a significant risk to the public health and safety of Americans.

“A state of emergency allows the head of a state, i.e. the governor, and the head of a country, i.e. the president, to allocate resources during a crisis,” Perry N. Halkitis, Ph.D., dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, told Verywell. “In the event of COVID-19, a state of emergency has been created for both the United States and many states across the country, indicating that resources that could not normally be allocated may be directed to some extremely difficult areas. to hit.”

In some states, COVID-19 restrictions have now been relaxed due to the apparent downward trend in cases following the peak of the Omicron variant. Just last month, California Governor Gavin Newsom officially announced that the state would transition to an endemic approach, which focuses on preventing COVID-19 outbreaks and responding quickly should they occur. would produce.

“It is entirely reasonable for some states to remove their states of emergency given [declining] rates of infection, hospitalizations and deaths,” Halkitis said. “However, at the federal level, the state of emergency seems to continue to make sense.”

The virus continues to pose a risk. It is possible that future variants of COVID-19 may emerge, which could affect current COVID-19 trends.

“From a public health perspective, it is clearly premature to lift the emergency, as the new variants are a real threat, and there are new Omicron surges underway in several countries,” Chris Beyrer, MD, MPH, Desmond M. Tutu, professor of public health and human rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Verywell. “There are also security concerns which mean the emergency is real and ongoing. So it’s clearly too early.

How would this affect COVID-19 interventions?

When the national emergency was first declared, no vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 had yet been developed.

Now, there are two vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Because they are officially FDA-approved, ending the national emergency declaration would not affect their authorization for use.

“The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has the authority to authorize the FDA to maintain emergency use authorization if an emergency is threatened,” Beyrer said. “Since a new variant of COVID-19 may emerge, we are still under this threat, so this should not change the EUA status of vaccines or treatments currently used under EUA.”

However, if the emergency declaration is withdrawn, there will be multiple impacts on health services, including appointments of key personnel, Beyrer added. If there were to be a new outbreak of COVID-19, the country’s ability to respond to the crisis would be affected and health systems would be overwhelmed.

What this means for you

If the declaration of emergency ends, federal aid and temporary measures for Americans could end, such as disaster relief, telehealth policies and suspension of student loan repayments. But that probably shouldn’t happen right now.

What else does the state of emergency have an impact?

Lifting the declaration of emergency would impact not only health services, but also the jobs, housing and financial security of many Americans. Temporary measures such as eviction moratoriums, disaster relief, suspension of student loan payments, telehealth policies, etc. would be affected.

“A number of measures put in place during emergencies could be affected, including the eviction moratorium — already expired in many states — and others,” Beyrer said.

Emergency declarations help federal, state and local governments do what is necessary to respond to a crisis, allocating funds and other resources to ensure public health protection and safety.

“By removing the state of emergency, jurisdictions don’t have to allocate additional resources to the hardest hit areas,” Halkitis said. “It would create an unfortunate situation in the United States, in parts of the country where COVID-19 continues to be prevalent, where COVID-19 restrictions have led to disease proliferation, and where those most in need, often poor , marginalized, and people of color, would be subject to the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

COVID-19 continues to claim around 1,500 deaths per day, so it is not yet truly endemic in the United States, he added. We also don’t know what will happen in the coming months, especially in the upcoming fall and winter seasons when respiratory infections are most active and most easily transmitted.

“It is a bit premature to think that our battle against COVID-19 is over, and as public health leaders we must continue to keep it front and center and continue to truly care for those affected by it. the pandemic, those who are unvaccinated and those who continue to become seriously ill,” Halkitis said.

The information in this article is current as of the date indicated, which means that more recent information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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