By Jessica Washington | The Root
It’s no secret that politicians are rushing to declare that the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us. And on Monday, President Joe Biden let it be known that he’ll allow the two COVID-19 national emergency declarations to expire in May.
It’s been three years since the pandemic began, and while things have greatly improved, the death tolls are still troubling. According to the New York Times COVID tracker, roughly 500 people die every day from the virus.
Now that the emergency declarations are coming to an end, it’s worth asking what this will mean for those of us living in a country where the virus is still a regular presence in our lives.
One big change: at-home testing. Under the current public health emergency, insurance companies must cover eight free COVID tests a month. Once that expires, you may have to start paying out of pocket for tests. So, word of advice: you might want to start picking up some COVID tests before your insurance starts handing you the bill.
Another significant change, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, is that people without insurance will no longer be able to access “free COVID-19 testing, vaccines, or treatment.”
It’s worth noting that Black Americans have a roughly 10.9 percent uninsured rate, which is higher than that of white Americans.
Treating COVID-19 could also become more expensive for everyone, regardless of their insurance status. Depending on which state you live in, insurers won’t be required to cover the total costs associated with anti-viral treatments.
The declaration will also loosen government control over the production of vaccines. And while, for now, the vaccines will still be covered for people with private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid, the cost of the vaccines is expected to skyrocket without government oversight.
At the moment, people are not exactly jumping on the new booster shot. According to the Associated Press, only 16 percent of eligible people have received their booster shot. Uptake is particularly low among Black Americans, and many have blamed the suspension of measures that made vaccines more accessible.
It’s unclear how ending the emergency declaration will impact people’s decisions to get vaccinated. Although it could signal to some that the pandemic is really behind us, it’s likely to make it more difficult for people without insurance to get care, a disproportionate number of whom are Black.
Of course, Biden’s decision to end these protections in May is still not soon enough for Republicans.
Republicans in Congress have been demanding an immediate end to these pandemic measures for a while. On Monday, the Republican-controlled House introduced the Pandemic Is Over Act, which would end the public health emergency.
The Republican bill is not going anywhere under a Biden presidency. But we will have to keep a close eye on how the end of these pandemic measures impacts our recovery.