Speed Reads

The end is nigh

Biden to end COVID-19 national emergencies on May 11, ushering in a host of changes

President Biden informed Congress on Monday that he will end both the national emergency and public health emergency for COVID-19 on May 11, more than three years after former President Donald Trump instituted them at the start of the global pandemic. Biden has renewed both emergency declarations every 90 days and had promised to give states a 60-day warning before ending them. 

The coronavirus has killed more than 1.1 million Americans, and about 500 more are still dying every day from COVID-19, but life for most people has returned to something close to normal. COVID-19 was the No. 3 cause of death in the U.S. from 2020 through mid-2022, but thanks to most Americans getting vaccinated as well as immunity from surviving an infection, it isn't among the top five killers, The New York Times reports

The White House informed Congress about the planned phase-out of the national emergencies one day before House Republicans plan to vote on a measure to end them immediately. "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," the White House said. 

The end of the emergency declarations will shift the federal public health response, treating COVID-19 like other endemic diseases. That will mean an end to government-purchased vaccines and free tests and treatments, though most people with private or public health insurance will still pay little or nothing for COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots. Out-of-pocket costs could rise for treatments like Paxlovid, however, and vaccine makers have said they will raise prices sharply once the government stops buying doses.

The conclusion of the national emergencies will also end federal subsidies for treating COVID-19 and special flexibility that health care providers were granted on hospital bed capacity, billing, and other areas. The White House said the Title 42 public health measure allowing expedited deportation of migrants will also be voided on May 11, The Washington Post reports. House Republicans, who told Biden on Monday to end the national emergencies right away because the pandemic is over, urged him to keep Title 42 in place, arguing that health concerns provide reasonable grounds to limit immigration.