May 17, 2022 – Federal health officials will extend the COVID-19 public health emergency past mid-July, which will continue pandemic-era policies as coronavirus cases increase again.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has renewed the emergency order since January 2020. The declaration allows the U.S. to grant emergency authorizations of drugs, vaccines, and other medical measures, as well as provide millions of Americans with the products with no out-of-pocket cost, according to Bloomberg News.
The public health emergency was last extended in mid-April for 90 days and is set to expire in mid-July, according to The New York Times. Republican lawmakers called on the Biden administration in February to stop extending the order, claiming the continuation was “government overreach.”
Since then, Omicron subvariants have driven up cases in the U.S. again. More than 95,000 new cases are being reported daily, and hospitalizations are beginning to increase again, the Times reported.
In April, federal health officials pledged to provide states with 60 days’ notice before terminating the public health emergency or allowing it to expire, according to The Washington Post.
Multiple sources told the newspaper that they hadn’t received any new information about the mid-July expiration date as of Monday afternoon, which suggests that the order could remain in place for at least another 90 days, until mid-October.
A spokesperson from the Department of Health and Human Services told Bloomberg News and the Post that “the public health emergency for COVID-19 remains in effect” and repeated the pledge to provide 60 days’ notice before ending the order.
The news comes after the American Medical Association and 15 other national health care organizations called on federal health officials to maintain the public health emergency as COVID-19 cases rise. In a May 10 letter, the groups asked for the emergency order to remain in place for patients to access vaccines, tests, treatments, flexible care, and affordable coverage.
“We request that the Administration maintain the public health emergency (PHE) until it is clear that the global pandemic has receded and the capabilities authorized by the PHE are no longer necessary,” the groups wrote. “This will help prevent any future surges from threatening the health and safety of patients and the ability of health care professionals to care for them.”