“The 360” shows you various perspectives on the most important stories and debates of the day.
What is going on
President Biden announced Monday that the two national emergencies that provided the legal basis for much of the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic will end on May 11.
While the state of emergency had symbolic weight, its main effect was to empower the government to take actions it would not be able to do under normal circumstances. Since the separate national and public health emergencies were declared in early 2020, they have provided legal leeway for everything from vaccine development, mask mandates, expanding health coverage and telehealth, updated hospital procedures, free COVID testing and treatment, and even the controversial immigration policy known as Title 42.
Biden’s decision came shortly after Republicans in the House of Representatives unveiled a plan to pass legislation that would immediately end the emergencies, but those bills are unlikely to become law.
While some of the most substantial elements of the federal pandemic response have already been phased out, the end of emergency declarations will have noticeable consequences. Vaccines, tests and treatments — which have been largely free for the past three years — may add new costs, especially for the uninsured. Shipments of free at-home COVID tests will end, as will extra funding that has helped hospitals meet the costs of treating COVID patients.
One of the key remaining policies that emerged from the emergency declarations, rules that prevent states from kicking people off Medicaid, will end in April thanks to a provision passed by Congress late last year. About 15 million people are expected to lose Medicaid coverage if that happens, including nearly 7 million who are still eligible for the program but could fall through cracks in the bureaucracy.
Why there is discussion
Many public health experts agree with Biden’s decision to end emergencies, arguing that the decision marks an important transition to treating the coronavirus as an endemic health threat rather than an immediate crisis. “Everyone wants to move on — not necessarily feel like we can’t do better — but move on to the next phase so that we can really begin to assimilate some form of impending normalcy,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been the face of the government’s pandemic response, told Bloomberg Law.
Conservatives have largely argued that the move is long overdue and have accused the Biden administration of clinging to its emergency powers as a way of imposing unpopular policies on the American people. Some argue that the emergency should end immediately, despite Biden’s warning that it would cause “broad chaos” in the healthcare system.
But critics of the decision say with about 500 people dying every day, the COVID emergency is far from over. They argue that rolling back support for testing, vaccinations and treatments will leave Americans – especially those most at risk – vulnerable to life-threatening infections and undermine the country’s ability to withstand any future spikes caused by potential new variants of the virus. to suppress.
The end of the public health emergency could have implications for the ongoing legal battle surrounding pandemic-era immigration restrictions and Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan. Both cases are under investigation by the Supreme Court and it remains to be seen how this may affect the judges’ rulings.
The country needs to shift to a sustainable long-term strategy for COVID
“Covid has become endemic, and the focus in the future must shift from treating it as the major emergency it once was, to managing its impact – particularly protecting those who are still vulnerable to severe impacts from the virus.” – Leana S. Wen, Washington Post
The emergency has been used by the administration as an excuse for a major overrun
“I don’t think Biden really believes we’re still in a state of emergency. … Still, the president and his administration have enjoyed the additional powers that came with the national emergency declaration. And they are working hard to hold on to this authority, which has given the executive more control over our lives.” —Ingrid Jacques, USA Today
The emergencies should end now, not in May
“Congress should ignore the government’s false alarms about immediately ending emergency declarations and unnecessary Covid restrictions.” – Drew Keyes, National Review
The emergency cannot last forever and there will never be a perfect time to end it
“Ending the public health emergency will pose a number of challenges (particularly vaccine/drug pricing). But it has to happen at some point and May (which gives us three months to prepare) seems like a good time.” — Bob Watcherchair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California San Francisco
Biden made the right choice, but there are real risks if the taper is poorly managed
“The public has moved on and Biden is right to formally end it. It will have profound implications for vaccines, treatments and public messaging. Unraveling powers and funding will be daunting. — Lawrence Gostinhealth law expert
The COVID health crisis is far from over
“I understand the political/financial pressures for this, but with 500 deaths a day, Covid remains a devastating threat to public health. … Could we see a new variant from China? And what about immunocompromised? A lot is still happening.” — Dr. Peter Hotezvaccine scientist
The end of the emergencies will mean that Americans will once again be at the mercy of our broken healthcare system
“U.S. health care, like everything else, is returning to normal — which means it will be more difficult for some people to access the health care they need.” —Dylan Scott, Vox
Officially declaring an emergency could send a dangerous message to Americans
“This kind of statement ending has symbolic weight. And so there will be people who say, “Great, I don’t have to worry anymore.” And I think that’s going to be a little hard to manage, and it’s up to the public health officials and those of us who work in this to still make it clear that this isn’t quite over. — Jen Kates, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, to NPR
There are not nearly enough support for the medically vulnerable to rationalize ending the emergency
“What policies are in place to protect the most vulnerable? What progress has been made on paid sick/family leave/insurance? What have policymakers learned to make sure this never happens again? But still, the public health emergency will come to an end.” — Dr. Uche Blackstockpublic health expert
Is there a topic you’d like to see covered in “The 360”? Send your suggestions to [email protected].
Photo illustration: Kelli R. Grant/Yahoo News; Photos: Carolyn Kaster/AP, Celal Gunes/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images, Getty Images