An independent news publication of
United Way of Lancaster County


Biden, Congress end U.S. Covid-19 emergency declaration

President Biden on Monday signed a congressional resolution bringing the federal government’s Covid-19 state of emergency to an end.

The declaration had been in effect since early 2000, allowing the government to implement sweeping measures to combat the pandemic. Even without Congress’ and Biden’s action, it was set to end in a few weeks.

The end of the emergency declaration means that the government is relinquishing much of its responsibility for providing Covid-19 testing and treatment, shifting that role to health insurers and health systems. The Washington Post has a rundown of the consequences, which include:

  • Medicaid re-enrollment: Last year, Congress ended rules that allowed millions of low-income households to stay on Medicaid. The U.S. Department of Health estimates up to 15 million people may be purged from the rolls. States must re-determine eligibility, a process that advocates fear could lead to many eligible households losing coverage due to administrative mix-ups. In Lancaster County, an estimated 20,000 people may be at risk.
  • Market-based testing: Federal officials are encouraging health insurers to provide free Covid-19 testing, but it is no longer required. Medicaid will continue to cover testing through September 2024; Medicare will cover testing ordered by a medical provider.
  • Market-based vaccination and treatment: The U.S. has stockpiled and distributed Covid-19 vaccines and medications to limit or eliminate patients’ out-of-pocket costs. Once those stockpiles run down, patients’ access will depend on their health coverage, whether private insurance, Medicaid or Medicare. Pfizer and Moderna have said they will provide Covid vaccines for free to uninsured patients.
  • Immigration enforcement: The end of the emergency declaration ends Title 42, which the federal government used to expel undocumented immigrants under a “public health” rationale. With its termination, their cases will now be handled under regular immigration law.

Since 2020, more than 1.1 million Americans have died from Covid-19. Weekly deaths from the disease in the U.S. in 2023 have ranged from a high of 4,109 in early January to a low of 1,537 in late March, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, as reported by the New York Times.