PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – We labored and learned from home while there was a run on toilet paper, masks, food, and even guns, and now Thursday marks the last day of the federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.
For the past three years the world has battled the pandemic that’s changed health care and everyday life. The government has shifted its COVID-19 response officially Thursday morning as cases continue to decline.
This past week one person in Virginia has died from COVID-19, with more than a thousand others testing positive.
Julian Walker, Vice President of Communications for the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association has been on the front line from the beginning.
“The pandemic was an unprecedented and harrowing experience that really was a significant challenge to hospitals and that really continues to this day,” Walker said.
One of the many things that will change with the public health emergency ending is COVID-19 testing. The government says they will still keep a stockpile, so free tests may be available at certain locations. However, out-of-pocket costs may change under certain plans.
Other changes to the Public Health Emergency include the end of certain Medicare and Medicaid waivers and flexibilities with health care providers. The government says those benefits were necessary to expand facility capacity for the health care system.
Since cases are now lower, the government says excess capacity is no longer needed. The way the government tracks COVID-19, with the CDC, will also change.
As far as what won’t change is Medicare virtual visit options, that will remain in place through December 2024. The government also says that access to vaccines and treatments will not be affected.
Senator Mark Warner released the following statement about the ending of Public Health Emergency for COVID-19:
When COVID-19 hit, Congress acted with force and urgency to save lives and livelihoods, taking actions that were made possible by the Public Health Emergency declaration, which opened the door to a wealth of additional tools and flexibilities. More than three years later, I’m proud to know that our nation has reached a point where we can move beyond the emergency stage of COVID-19 and the corresponding PHE declaration.
Now, it’s up to Congress to adopt more permanent policies that reflect the valuable lessons we learned during this crisis, and that allow us to move forward rather than backwards. We must continue to strengthen our public health response capabilities, ensure that health care is affordable and easy to access through robust telehealth options, and improve the security of our southwest border while creating a better functioning asylum process and a reasonable path towards legal status for those who are undocumented. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress on these issues.Statement from Sen. Mark Warner on Public Health Emergency ending for COVID-19
Sen. Tim Kaine also released a statement on the end of the public health emergency:
“The past three years of COVID have brought incredible loss and economic uncertainty, but thanks to federal relief we passed in Congress and the strength and resiliency of the American people, we’ve been able to get back to work and school and reconnect with loved ones. As the public health emergency comes to an end, and we enter the next phase of recovery, we must build on the progress we’ve made and take the lessons of the past few years to continue to move our country forward. I’m going to continue pushing for legislation to support our workforce, improve our health care systems, and strengthen our economy.
And as Title 42 ends today, I’ll also continue to push for more resources to secure our southern border and allow asylum cases to be heard, as well as advocate for comprehensive immigration reform that strengthens border security, targets smugglers and traffickers, provides an orderly path for legal immigration, addresses the root causes of migration, and creates a path to citizenship for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, and other immigrants with long ties to the U.S. and Virginia.”
Statement from Sen. Tim Kaine on Public Health Emergency ending for COVID-19
The North Carolina Department of Health has also said that they will continue to distribute free federally funded COVID-19 tests and vaccines those who are uninsured. This offer will continue while supplies last.
Over the past year, 10 On Your Side has documented how hospitals moved beyond their walls to provide care as the pandemic exposed how poverty, played a role in survival.
“So whether its community health fairs, free testing, a whole host of things, I think you have seen hospitals very engaged in that because hospitals really have been driving that public health conversation around these social factors that impact care,” Walker said.
The end of the crisis comes as one-third of the nation’s nurses report they will soon leave the profession due to stress.
“It has led to real workforce staffing challenges that existed prior to the pandemic, but it really intensified since the pandemic,” Walker said.
While the public health emergency is over, what some call pandemic PTSD or post traumatic stress disorder is ongoing.
“This has been a period of upheaval and disruption for everybody from frontline health workers to members of the general public,” Walker said. “It is natural that this in many ways has altered how we interact with the world altered the way in which people engage with the world.”
To learn more about the end of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website.