President Biden Says Covid-19 Emergencies Set to End May 11

President Joe Biden informed Congress Monday that he will end the two national emergencies that addressed Covid-19 on May 11, as most countries worldwide have edged closer to normalcy almost three years after they were first instated.

A move to end the public health emergencies declarations and national emergencies would formally restructure the coronavirus response from the federal government to treat the virus as a public health threat that can be managed through the agencies’ typical authorities. 

The move comes as lawmakers have already ended portions of the emergencies that kept many Americans insured throughout the pandemic. The drawdown of most federal pandemic relief money would also shift vaccine development of treatments and vaccines away from the federal government’s management.

The president’s announcement came in a statement opposing resolutions being brought to the floor of the House by Republicans to get the emergency to a quick end. House GOP members are also ramping up to launch investigations on the response by the federal government to Covid-19.

Former President Donald Trump’s Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar, declared a health emergency on January 31, 2020. Trump later said a coronavirus national emergency in March. President Biden has repeatedly extended the emergency order since he took office in January 2021, and it is scheduled to expire in the upcoming months. The White House confirmed Biden plans to extend them briefly until it ends on May 11.

Agency cautions about abrupt end to emergency declarations

“An abrupt end to the emergency declarations would create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system — for states, for hospitals and doctors’ offices, and, most importantly, for tens of millions of Americans,” wrote the Office of Management and Budget in a Statement of Administration Policy.

The Biden administration had considered ending the emergency last year but didn’t, amid growing concerns about a possible “winter surge” in cases to give adequate time for insurers, patients, and providers to prepare for its suspension.

Officials said the Biden administration would use the upcoming three months to transition to customary methods, warning that an immediate end to the crisis authorities “would sow confusion and chaos into this critical wind-down.”

Only moments before the White House’s announcement, Republican Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma accused the president of unnecessarily extending the public health emergency to take action on additional issues like forgiving some federal student loan debts. 

Rep. Cole introduced a new GOP-backed bill calling for an end to the health emergency. “The country has largely returned to normal,” Cole said Monday. “Everyday Americans have returned to work and to school with no restrictions on their activities. It is time that the government acknowledges this reality: the pandemic is over.”

The House was scheduled to vote on the legislation Tuesday. 

The bill’s author, GOP Representative Brett Guthrie of Kentucky, said he hopes the House will continue with a vote. He said he was startled by the move by the White House but thinks the legislation may have played a key role in prompting the administration to act.

“I think we should go forward,” Guthrie said Monday as lawmakers returned for work in the Capitol. “If for some reason they don’t do it on May 11, the vehicle is still there for Congress to take back its authority.”