President Joe Biden will end the twin national emergencies for addressing COVID-19 on May 11, as most of the world gets closer to normalcy nearly three years after the emergencies were first declared, the Associated Press reported.
The move would formally overturn the federal response to the virus and change it to one where COVID is treated as an endemic threat to public health, much like the flu, which returns seasonally but can be managed without major disruption to the healthcare system.
The previous administration’s Health and Human Services secretary, Alex Azar, first declared a public-health emergency on Jan. 31, 2020, and then-President Trump declared the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency in March 2020.
The emergencies, which have been repeatedly extended by Biden since he took office in January 2021, were set to expire in the coming months.
Biden’s announcement to Congress came in a statement opposing resolutions being brought to the floor this week by House Republicans to end the emergency with immediate effect. House Republicans are also gearing up to launch investigations into the federal government’s response to COVID-19.
“An abrupt end to the emergency declarations would create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the healthcare system — for states, for hospitals and doctors’ offices, and, most importantly, for tens of millions of Americans,” the Office of Management and Budget wrote in a Statement of Administration Policy.
Republicans have refused for months to meet Biden’s request for billions of dollars to extend COVID vaccines and testing. That’s despite the fact that more than 500 people in the U.S. still die of COVID every day.
The daily average for deaths stood at 506 on Monday, down 10% from two weeks ago, according to a New York Times tracker.
The seven-day average of new U.S. cases stood at 45,791. That’s down 23% from two weeks ago. The daily average for hospitalizations was down 22% to 32,823.
Cases are currently rising in nine states and in the U.S. Virgin Islands. They are led by Tennessee, where cases are up 104% from two weeks ago.
The World Health Organization has repeatedly called on countries to keep up with public-safety measures related to the pandemic and to continue to test and monitor for new or changing variants. On Monday, it said the pandemic is not over but may be approaching an inflection point where higher immunity levels reduce deaths.
Experts agreed that it’s too early for the world to let its guard down.
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Other COVID-19 news you should know about:
• Pfizer shares
fell on Tuesday and were headed toward a 3½-month low after the drug company offered soft guidance for 2023, with revenues from COVID products expected to dwindle. The company said revenue for the company’s COVID vaccine Comirnaty is expected to drop 64% and revenue for its COVID treatment Paxlovid is expected to fall 58%. Overall revenue for the year is expected to fall to $67 billion to $71 billion, down from $100.3 billion in 2022.
• The U.S. spends far more money on healthcare than other high-income countries do, yet it remains without universal health-insurance coverage and performs worse on several key health indicators, according to a new report, MarketWatch’s Emma Ockerman reported. Using data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which compiles health statistics from across its 38 member countries as well as from other sources, the Commonwealth Fund compared spending and health outcomes in the U.S. with those of 12 other countries and found that the U.S. devoted nearly 18% of its total gross domestic product to healthcare costs in 2021 — nearly twice the amount the average OECD country spends — despite lacking a universal health-insurance program.
• The Russian Embassy in Pyongyang says North Korea has eased stringent epidemic controls in the capital that were enacted during the past five days to slow the spread of respiratory illnesses, the AP reported. North Korea has not officially acknowledged a lockdown in Pyongyang or a re-emergence of COVID after leader Kim Jong Un declared a widely disputed victory over the coronavirus in August, but the Russian Embassy’s Facebook posts have provided rare glimpses into the secretive country’s infectious-disease controls.
Here’s what the numbers say:
The global tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases topped 670.6 million on Monday, while the death toll rose above 6.83 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. leads the world with 102.3 million cases and 1,107,855 fatalities.
The CDC’s tracker shows that 229.6 million people living in the U.S., equal to 69.2% of the total population, are fully vaccinated, meaning they have had their primary shots.
So far, just 51.4 million Americans, equal to 15.5% of the overall population, have had the updated COVID booster that targets both the original virus and the omicron variants.