The Biden administration in May plans to end national and public health emergencies tied to the coronavirus, signaling a new approach to how the federal government views Covid almost three years after the pandemic started.
Existing emergency declarations would be extended until May 11 and then expire, the White House said in a statement Monday. The advance notice is designed to give states, health care providers and hospitals enough time to adjust to the changes.
The move to wind down the emergency status, first implemented by the Trump administration on Jan. 27, 2020, was announced in response to a pair of bills in the Republican-controlled House that would immediately end the declarations.
The White House said it opposed the GOP timeline, arguing that ending the emergency programs and policies now would “create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty” within the country’s health care system and government operations, which extend to hospitals, doctors’ offices and patients.
Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., who introduced one of the two measures opposed by the White House, said in a statement that President Joe Biden “has taken too long to take action on his statement last September that the pandemic is over.”
Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., who introduced the measure to end the national emergency Trump enacted in March 2020, tweeted, “There is no reason to wait.”
In a separate statement, the White House threatened to veto a GOP-backed bill that would eliminate the Covid vaccination mandate for certain health care providers.
“While COVID-19 is no longer the disruptive threat that it once was, it makes no sense for Congress to reverse this protection for vulnerable patients, as well as our health care workers who have given so much to protect us,” the White House said in a statement of administration policy.
None of the measures are expected to be taken up by the Senate if they are passed by the House.
The World Health Organization, which declared the pandemic in 2020, said Monday that Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged a WHO committee’s recent “views that the COVID-19 pandemic is probably at a transition point.”
Thousands of people in the U.S. continue to die from the coronavirus virus every week, but the figure has dropped significantly over the past two years.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last week 3,756 people died because of Covid, compared with roughly 22,500 people in the last week of January 2021 and about 17,000 in the same period last year.