The COVID-19 Public Health Emergency is scheduled to end on May 11, and the federal government will shift its response to the COVID-19 pandemic out of the emergency phase that was implemented in March 2020 just days after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.
On April 11, President Joe Biden signed H.J. Res. 7, a resolution that will officially end the state of national emergency due to the pandemic — even though a Statement of Administration Policy made by the Executive Office of the President in January advised against this decision.
“An abrupt end to the emergency declarations would create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system — for states, hospitals, doctors’ offices and, most importantly, for tens of millions of Americans,” the statement said.
When a public health emergency was in effect, the government provided extra funds to states to ensure access to the Medicaid program. Consequently, a hurried end to the public health emergency could cause many Americans to lose their health insurance.
The office of the president also expressed concern over immigration policies at the Southwest border abruptly changing when the public health emergency ends.
“Congress will effectively be requiring the administration to allow thousands of migrants per day into the country immediately without the necessary policies in place,” the office of the president said.
Although there are tangible drawbacks to ending the public health emergency, a drop in COVID case numbers supports the measure.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 Data Tracker, cases and death rates have been declining steadily across the country, with 96.8% of reporting areas marked as having low levels of COVID-19.
The CDC tracker also reports Lafayette County as having zero new COVID-19 case admissions per 100,000 people as of April 27.
Many believe that the end of the public health emergency is a step forward in returning to normalcy after three years in a pandemic. Sophomore accounting major Caroline Dykes expressed that she looks forward to getting back to normal routine.
“With rates being so low recently, I haven’t really thought about the pandemic,” Dykes said. “It’s nice to think that things will be back to normal after being different for so long.”
Although rates have been steadily declining, there also are some concerns regarding new variants. Arcturus, or XBB.1.16, has been reported to be of interest. Arcturus is closely related to XBB.1.5, a subvariant of Omicron that began to circulate in February.
As of this week, around 12% of reported COVID-19 cases in the U.S. were the Arcturus variant. The effect that this variant will have on the general public is dependent on the immunity of the population.
Despite the possibility of a new variant, many people still see COVID-19 as an issue of the past.
“COVID-19 has played such an integral role in our lives that it’s strange to think it’s finally over,” sophomore finance major Macie Walters said. “The idea of a new variant is definitely concerning, but I feel almost desensitized to it at this point. I never really see people talk about COVID-19 anymore, so it isn’t a huge issue for me personally.”
It has been three long years with COVID-19, and many look forward to the end. However, only time will tell if the pandemic’s end is for better or worse.