Since first being implemented in January 2020, the state of public health emergency in the U.S. has been extended six times and is likely to remain in place "at least through the end of 2021 — and possibly beyond," The Washington Post writes.
The pandemic-sparked designation must, however, end at some point. So what might that look like, and when might it happen, both legally and in its public impact?
"To me, the public health emergency was premised on the ability of the virus to put a hospital into crisis," said Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. "When enough high-risk people are immune through vaccination or natural infection and hospitals no longer have to worry about capacity, the public health emergency is over although [COVID-19] will still be present."
Physician and infectious disease expert Monica Gandhi said the public health emergency should be declared over based on country-wide hospitalization rates — particularly when they are "< 5/100,000 population."
But Leana Wen, a former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore, believes an official end will be a bit more difficult to ascertain. "I'd see lifting the state of emergency as being challenging as long as there is so much spread and a substantial proportion of the population — young children — who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated," she told the Post.
When the public health emergency does end, it seems Americans should expect certain control measures to remain in place, at least temporarily. Said Natalie Dean, an assistant professor at Emory University: "I can see vaccine mandates, vaccine passports, and routine testing sticking around for a while, as well as masks in crowded public indoor spaces while transmission levels are high." Read more at The Washington Post.