Governors urge Biden to end COVID-19 health emergency declaration

by Jacob Fuller

Lauren C. Moye, FISM News

 

Half of the United States governors are urging President Joe Biden to formally end the emergency declaration for COVID-19 that continues to negatively affect state budgets.

The president has continued to extend the declaration, despite a drop in new infection rates and less severe symptoms in the newest variants.

“While the virus will be with us for some time, the emergency phase of the pandemic is behind us. We have come so far since the beginning of the pandemic — we now have the tools and information necessary to help protect our communities from COVID-19,” the coalition of 25 governors wrote on Dec. 19.

The governors, led by Gov. Chris Sununu (R-N.H.), noted that Biden himself had declared in late September that “the pandemic is over” during a 60 Minutes interview.

They also noted a bipartisan Senate resolution to terminate the emergency status passed on Nov. 15. The House has not yet acted on this resolution.

“We agree with both your state and the Senate’s resolution — it is time we move on from the pandemic and get back to life as normal,” Gov. Chris Sununu (R-N.H.) stated.

While COVID is listed as a national Public Health Emergency (PHE), the states note there are negative effects on their livelihood. Most notably, the PHE expands Medicaid coverage and prevents states from disenrolling ineligible members from the program without the individual doing it voluntarily.

Federal funds to cover this increase in expense must also be matched by the states, which the governors claim is “costing states hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Sununu notes that 20 million individuals have been added to states’ Medicaid rolls since it was first declared a national emergency, which is an increase of 30%. Those numbers are expected to rise until the emergency rules are revoked by the expiration of the PHE.

COVID-19 was first given PHE status on Jan. 27, 2020. That status was last renewed on Oct. 13, 2022, by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra.

It is currently set to expire on Jan. 11. However, Biden administration officials have said states will be given at least 60 days advanced notice before the PHE expires. Since states have not received this notice, it is expected the PHE will be renewed at least once more to give it an expiration date in April at the earliest.

“We urge you to end the national emergency and the PHE in April and provide states notice of those intentions well in advance to allow us to adequately plan for the future,” said the governors.

As of Monday, the 7-day average for new infections in the U.S. is 68,904 compared to its peak 7-day average of over 800,000 nearly a year ago in January 2022.

Meanwhile, “Our World in Data” shows that the 7-day hospitalizations and placement in Intensive Care Units have also dropped significantly. On Dec. 16, these averages were 33,310 and 4,047, respectively.

In January of this year, those numbers were 151,583 with 25,981 individuals placed in the ICU.

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