The Biden-Harris administration announced today that it sent a notice to the Federal Register stating that the government will end the COVID-19 emergency on May 11, 2023.

The initial COVID-19 national emergency and public health emergencies (PHE) were declared by the Trump Administration in 2020. They are currently set to expire on March 1 and April 11, respectively.

President Biden extended the emergency declarations to May 11, and both emergencies are set to end on that date. This wind-down would align with the administration’s previous commitments to give at least 60 days’ notice before termination of the PHE, the White House said.

“Today, we are in a different phase of the response to that pandemic than we were in March of 2020, and my Administration is planning for an end to the national emergency, but an orderly transition is critical to the health and safety of the Nation,” President Biden wrote to Congress on Feb. 10.

“Therefore, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared in Proclamation 9994 concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. I anticipate terminating the national emergency concerning the COVID-19 pandemic on May 11, 2023,” he said.

This move carries both symbolic weight and real-world consequences. Millions of Americans received free COVID tests, treatments, and vaccines during the pandemic – and presumably not all of that will continue to be free once the emergency is over.

The White House will keep the emergency in place for several more months so hospitals, health care providers, and health officials can prepare for a host of changes when it ends to avoid “chaos” and “uncertainty.”

Ending the emergency will prompt complex changes in the cost of COVID tests and treatments – like vaccines or antiviral pills – that Americans are accustomed to getting for free. Any charges they face will vary depending on whether they have private insurance, Medicare coverage, or no health insurance.

Telehealth coverage was expected to expire after the PHE was lifted, but the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 extended the coverage of telemedicine visits until Dec. 31, 2024.

Lifting the COVID-19 emergency is a sign that Federal officials believe the pandemic has moved into a new, less dire phase.

An average of more than 500 people in the United States are still dying from COVID-19 each day – about twice the number of deaths per day during a bad flu season. Just over 1.1 million Americans have died from the coronavirus since 2020, with the highest number of deaths in January 2021.

But at the three-year mark, the coronavirus is no longer upending everyday life to the extent it once did, partly because much of the population has at least some protection against the virus. Almost 70 percent of the nation is vaccinated against COVID-19 and many people are protected from prior infections.

While President Biden has officially declared that the COVID-19 emergency will end for the American public in the coming months, the virus has affected the nation and families in a way that will never be forgotten.

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.