Bill signals end to the COVID-19 emergency


President Joe Biden signed into law House joint resolution 7 on Monday, ending the national COVID-19 emergency that began on March 13, 2020.

The resolution was introduced to the House of Representatives on Jan. 9, 2023, and it passed, 229-197, on Feb. 1. Prior to the resolution’s passage from the House, the Executive Office of the President and the Office of Management and Budget posted a Statement of Administration Policy warning what the ending of the emergency would entail.

“First, 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,” the statement said. “During the PHE, the Medicaid program has operated under special rules to provide extra funding to states to ensure that tens of millions of vulnerable Americans kept their Medicaid coverage during a global pandemic. In December, Congress enacted an orderly wind-down of these rules to ensure that patients did not lose access to care unpredictably and that state budgets don’t face a radical cliff. If the PHE were suddenly terminated, it would sow confusion and chaos into this critical wind-down. Due to this uncertainty, tens of millions of Americans could be at risk of abruptly losing their health insurance, and states could be at risk of losing billions of dollars in funding… Finally, millions of patients, including many of our nation’s veterans, who rely on telehealth would suddenly be unable to access critical clinical services and medications. The most acutely impacted would be individuals with behavioral health needs and rural patients.”

Following the measure’s passage in the House, it was introduced in the Senate on Feb. 2, 2023, and passed by a count of 68-23 on March 29.

An accompanying measure, H.R. 382, which would terminate the COVID-19 public health emergency that started on Jan. 31, 2020, has already passed from the House of Representatives by a count of 220-210.

The ending of these measures comes at a time when case rates are at lows, with The New York Times COVID Tracker’s latest statistics showing that the case rate for the week of March 31 to April 6 to be less than one per day.

Despite the ending of these measures, it is not the lowest the county has seen since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the tracker. The tracker showed that the beginning of the pandemic took a couple of months to significantly spike, with the country not seeing a weekly case rate of double-digits (11) until July 9-15, 2020. The tracker said the first spike peaked with a weekly case rate of 229 the week of Jan. 7-13, 2021.

The tracker said that this specific spike in Highland County continued until the week of May 13-19, 2021, when the weekly case rate settled at eight. It said the small lull in case rate continued for a couple of months, after which the biggest period of COVID-19 began, the first double-digit case rate starting during the week of July 8-14, 2021, when it measured at 12.

The tracker said this period of COVID-19 saw multiple periods of spikes, with the first spike’s most devastating week being Aug. 26, 2021, to Sept. 1, 2021, when it measured a weekly case rate of 413. The tracker also said that following the first spike, there was a smaller period, but the weekly case rate never dropped under 100 during it.

It said that the weekly case rate started to significantly increase again during the week of Nov. 11-17, 2021, when the case rate was 135. The tracker said this new spike continued until the week of March 10-16, 2022. The tracker said the second spike was the largest of the entire pandemic for Highland County, with the largest weekly case rate happening during the week of Jan. 13-19, 2022, when it was at 923.

After this spike, Highland County saw only a couple of months with a weekly case rate of over 100, with the newest weekly case rate for the week of March 30, 2023, to April 5, 2023, being 28.

Despite the decline of COVID-19, the New York Times COVID Tracker for the United States as a whole said that at least 1,500 people have died each week due to COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, even during the lull in case rate.

Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.

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