On Monday, President Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced to Congress that national emergencies declared by the federal government due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic will end on May 11, according to the Associated Press. This declaration may not be surprising to many Americans as cases have significantly decreased and normalcy has simultaneously increased.
For nearly two years, COVID-19 was the third-leading cause of death, and now, it is not even ranked in the top five, according to the New York Times. Reportedly, only 15 percent of Americans have received an updated booster shot since last fall, even though 68 percent of the American population received the initial vaccination series. This shows a significant reduction in the desire to get vaccinated and, more importantly, a decreased sense of care regarding the virus.
While many Americans have transitioned from a constant state of COVID-19 anxiety, it is important to note that Biden’s announcement is not just symbolic and has significant implications for the health care sector. For example, as soon as the national emergency declaration ends, hospitals will no longer receive a 20 percent increase in funds from Medicare to accommodate the cost of treating many COVID-19 patients, according to CNN.
Approximately 15 million people could lose Medicaid insurance after May 11, according to an estimation from a Department of Health and Human Services analysis. This is because states were prohibited from removing people from Medicaid while COVID-19 was declared a public health emergency.
As a result, the aforementioned individuals will have to find other insurance coverage. Those without insurance will not be able to receive free vaccines that were provided through state Medicaid programs that were originally funded by the federal government, according to an article from TIME Magazine. The prices for a single dose of Pfizer and Modern will likely range between $82 and $130, according to CNN.
Ultimately, a majority of Americans will be affected in some capacity as noticeable changes will go into effect based on their insurance status. TIME Magazine outlines how people on private insurance and Medicaid will be affected when it comes to covering the costs of vaccinations, polymerase chain reaction and at-home tests and treatment.
But the level to which people are affected will vary. Some people will still feel threatened by COVID-19 and may want to take extra precautions, especially those with weaker immune systems. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned people who are immunocompromised to be cautious with COVID-19 as a drug called Evusheld, once considered key for treating that patient population, was found to be ineffective against certain COVID-19 mutations.
It is important not to overlook people still affected by COVID-19, even as many try to push for normalcy. Nineteen percent of American adults struggle with symptoms of long COVID-19, according to a Household Pulse Survey studied by the CDC. As these people continue to feel COVID-19’s effects, it is very difficult for them to consider the public health emergency to be definitively over by May 11.
The societal pressure to move on from the pandemic can be received as insensitive and dismissive of vulnerable populations. For example, employers in the workplace have voiced that they no longer see COVID-19 as a valid excuse to miss work, according to Business Insider. Consequently, there will always be a national divide over how to approach COVID-19.
All across the nation, people are faced with this seemingly never-ending question of how they will coexist with one another when their views directly contradict. There will be those who want to remain cautious and those who want to forget COVID-19's existence, all of which show that the federal government ending the public health emergency for the coronavirus is much more than a symbolic action.
The nation will be left to grapple with the effects of a changed health care system that will have both foreseen and unforeseen effects on individuals. And while some people will try to forget COVID-19’s prevalence, vulnerable populations should not be overlooked and should not be left to fend for themselves.
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