The administration did not notify groups, including the Association of State and Territory Health Officials, the Federation of American Hospitals and the American Public Health Association, that the PHE would end, a courtesy of HHS said it would post 60 days before the Covid-19 statement is complete. The 60-day notice would have been issued earlier this week under that commitment.
“The administration’s silence means the public health emergency will almost certainly be extended through January 2023,” said Larry Levitt, executive vice president of health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The United States continues to average nearly 100,000 documented Covid-19 infections and more than 400 deaths per day, according to CDC data. Federal health officials and public health experts are warning that the healthcare system could be stretched in the coming months if an expected resurgence in Covid-19 infections in the fall coincides with flu season.
“I expect this fall and winter to be much more like fall and winter 2019 than the past two years with much less mitigation,” the Covid-19 response coordinator said on Tuesday. 19 from the White House, Ashish Jha, during a virtual meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce. “And that means we should be ready for more flu and more Covid.”
The regulatory flexibility under the PHE that allowed pharmacists to administer Covid-19 vaccines will also be important to maintain ahead of a possible bivalent recall campaign in the fall, according to the executive director of the American Public Health Association, George Benjamin.
“We still have pharmacists in some communities with the ability to give vaccines now that they didn’t have before, so making sure health practitioners can deliver the vaccine is going to be very important,” Benjamin said.
The decision to extend the emergency declaration comes after lengthy discussions among senior Biden officials about when it would be appropriate to let the designation expire, POLITICO previously reported. HHS has extended the public health emergency every 90 days since it was first declared.
Member of the Maison Energie et Commerce ranking Cathy McMorrisRodgers (R-Wash.) and Ranking Member of the Health Subcommittee Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) argued last week that the Biden administration “has no good justification” for maintaining the PHE without providing additional details on how the government would scrap it.
But Federation of American Hospitals CEO Chip Kahn argued that now was not the right time to end PHE, given the continued impact of Covid-19 on the healthcare system.
“Even though the public has moved on, we have to deal with it every day,” Kahn said. “The flu is coming, as well as the possibility of a spread of Covid which would lead to more hospitalizations. We’re just not ready to make a big change.
When the Covid-19 emergency declaration is finally terminated, medical products marketed under emergency use authorization granted by the FDA will not necessarily be immediately withdrawn. The agency has also released guidelines outlining how it plans to transition these products over time.
The agency’s authorities governing the emergency use of medical products will remain in place until HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra declares the end of separate reporting under the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which allows the agency to issue EUAs.