Why The Biden Administration Extended The COVID Public Health Emergency Status

The Biden administration has evaluated the current state of the pandemic and announced on Friday that they have extended the COVID-19 public health emergency status through October 13, reports CNN. Signed into effect by Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra (via ASPR), the decision comes following the continued spread of the BA.5 Omicron subvariant. As the most transmissible variant identified thus far, BA.5 is now the dominant strain in the U.S., reports NPR. The subvariant now makes up the majority of COVID-19 cases across the country.

In a statement to CNN, a White House official relayed that extending the declaration allows the administration to continue to meet the needs of the public and healthcare professionals alike. "The Public Health Emergency declaration continues to provide us with tools and authorities needed to respond to the highly transmissible COVID-19 subvariants that are currently circulating around the country. The PHE provides essential capabilities and flexibilities to hospitals to better care for patients, particularly if we were to see a significant increase in hospitalizations in the coming weeks."

Extending the declaration will allow the administration to meet the continued needs of the public

As reported by CNN, ending the declaration would limit public access to resources such as free COVID-19 testing, vaccines, and lifesaving treatments. More people may incur out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19-related medical needs. "Not renewing the PHE would leave us with fewer tools to respond and mean more Americans would get severely ill and end up in the hospital," the official noted to the outlet. 

Additionally, ending the declaration could put as many as 14 million Americans at risk of losing their health insurance, as states will then be allowed to resume involuntary disenrollment from Medicaid coverage (per CNN). For those insured by Medicare, services offered under the declaration, such as telehealth appointments or at-home medical visits, may no longer be included. 

A separate declaration is in place to maintain emergency use authorization of medical needs such as testing, vaccines, and treatment drugs. In the event that should change, the administration would need to give 60 days notice prior to the official declaration end date.