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Biden to End COVID-19 National Emergencies in May

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The Biden administration has said it would give 60 days notice before ending the public health emergency, which was set to end April 11, and the national emergency was set to end March 1.

President Joe Biden told Congress on Monday that he will end the twin national emergencies for addressing COVID-19 on May 11, shifting the development of vaccines and treatments away from government involvement and back to drugmakers.

In addition, drugmakers and insurance companies will start billing for vaccines and treatments, which, until now, were available at no cost. Pfizer, the maker of the antiretroviral nirmatrelvir plus ritonavir (Paxlovid), could charge as much as $130 per dose.

The Trump administration declared a public health emergency (PHE) on January 31, 2020, and a national emergency followed in March. The emergencies have been repeatedly extended by Biden since he took office in January 2021.

The Biden administration has said it would give 60 days notice before ending the PHE, and the deadline for that notice was approaching next week. The national emergency was set to end March 1 and the PHE on April 11; they will both be extended to end May 11.

House Republicans have sought to end both emergencies immediately, but the White House warned that such a move would create chaos.

"To be clear, continuation of these emergency declarations until May 11 does not impose any restriction at all on individual conduct with regard to COVID-19. They do not impose mask mandates or vaccine mandates. They do not restrict school or business operations. They do not require the use of any medicines or tests in response to cases of COVID-19," according to a statement from the Office of Management and Budget.

The New York Times reported that Republican-controlled House is scheduled to hear several pandemic-related bills this week.

According to the CDC, more than 1.1 million people in the United States have died from COVID-19 since 2020, including about 3700 last week.

Only 15% of Americans have received the recommended, updated booster that has been offered since last fall, according to the Associated Press.

With the end of the emergency, hospitals and health systems will no longer have some of the flexibilities they had during the height of the pandemic, although some have been extended by Congress.

As part of the $1.7 billion spending bill passed in December, telehealth benefits expanded or created by necessity of the COVID-19 crisis were given a reprieve until 2024. In addition, Medicare is allowed to cover oral antiviral drugs like Paxlovid, even if they are under an emergency use authorization, through the end of 2024.

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