Biden administration extends COVID public health emergency

A man speaks at a lectern next to charts reflecting COVID-19 statistics
White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha speaks during the daily briefing at the White House on Oct. 11.
(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

The Biden administration said Thursday that the COVID-19 public health emergency will continue through Jan. 11, as officials brace for a spike in cases this winter.

The decision comes as the pandemic has faded from the forefront of many people’s minds. Deaths and infections are dropping, and people — many maskless — are returning to schools, work and stores as normal.

The public health emergency, first declared in January 2020 under the Trump administration and renewed every 90 days since, has
dramatically changed how health services are delivered.

The declaration allowed the emergency-use authorization of COVID-19 vaccines, and made tests and treatments available at no cost. It expanded Medicaid coverage to millions more people, many of whom could lose that coverage once the emergency ends.


The emergency also temporarily opened up telehealth access for Medicare recipients, enabling doctors to collect the same rates for those visits and encouraging health networks to adopt telehealth technology.

Republicans have been pressing the administration to end the emergency since the beginning of the year.

President Biden has urged Congress to provide billions more in aid to pay for COVID-19 vaccines and testing. The federal government ceased sending free COVID tests in the mail last month, saying it had run out of money for the service.

If the U.S. public health emergency ends, Americans would be vulnerable to a new coronavirus variant that sparks another COVID-19 surge.

March 14, 2022

Public health officials, meanwhile, are urging people age 5 and older to get an updated COVID-19 booster alongside a flu vaccine this fall before a predicted winter coronavirus surge and nasty flu season.

According to White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha, as of last weekend about 13 million people had gotten the bivalent booster, which targets the BA.4 and BA.5 versions of the Omicron variant as well as the original coronavirus strain.

The administration has said it will provide 60 days’ notice before it ends the public health emergency.