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The COVID-19 public health emergency ends but 'we're not out of the woods'

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News (file photo)

The national public health emergency for COVID-19 expires Thursday. So what happens now?

The public health emergency declared in January 2020 allowed for flexibility and allowance like no-cost COVID-19 testing and vaccines.

Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Katie Anderson said the end of the emergency does not mean the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

"[There are] 100+ maybe 170 people who are dying each day of COVID in the United States," Anderson said. "Just a couple of months ago it was over 300, which puts it on par with dying from lung cancer. We're not out of the woods."

Another change — people will need to reenroll in insurance programs like Medicaid. Anderson said some people may no longer qualify for these programs and need to be looking for alternate sources of insurance.

"The New York State Department of Health is beginning to send renewal notices this month," Anderson said. "Nobody is going to lose their coverage until July of this year, but that is coming up fast. This is a major implication for the end of the public health emergency for our local folks here in Onondaga County. The individuals who will be affected need to move quickly."

Coverage for COVID testing and vaccines will now vary by insurance. Anderson said in New York COVID related tests, vaccines and treatment will continue to be covered by Medicaid through September 2024.

"Even though the federal public health emergency is ending, I encourage every New Yorker to remain vigilant against COVID-19 and use all available tools to keep themselves, their loved ones and their communities safe and healthy," Gov Kathy Hochul said in a release. "Stay up to date on vaccine doses and be sure to test before gatherings or travel. If you test positive, talk to your doctor about potential treatment options."

With the end of the public health emergency, SUNY Chancellor John King announced the COVID-19 vaccination requirement would be lifted for all SUNY schools.

Anderson urged people to stay vigilant and up to date on vaccines stressing COVID-19 will not be going away.

"COVID vaccines will continue to be an important and necessary part of our lives," Anderson said. "It's really important that we keep nailing this point because they prevent death, they prevent hospitalization and people are still dying from COVID now often preventably."

Anderson said people age 65 and older or people who are immunocompromised can get a second bivalent booster, even if they're already had one if it's been 6 months.

Ava Pukatch joined the WRVO news team in September 2022. She previously reported for WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC and earned a degree in Journalism and Media from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Ava was a Stembler Scholar and a reporter and producer for the award-winning UNC Hussman broadcast Carolina Connection. In her free time, Ava enjoys theatre, coffee and cheering on Tar Heel sports. Find her on Twitter @apukatch.