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US extends Covid public health emergency until spring, administration official says

Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra answers questions during a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing to discuss reopening schools during coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, September 30, 2021 of the year.

Greg Nash | swimming pool | Reuters

The US is extending the Covid public health emergency until spring 2023, a Biden administration official said Friday.

The decision to extend the state of emergency comes as public health officials expect a new spike in Covid this winter as people gather more indoors, where the virus spreads more easily. The future also remains uncertain as more immune-evading omicron sub-variants become dominant in the US.

The Department of Health and Human Services previously extended the public health emergency until January. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra promised to notify healthcare providers 60 days before the emergency is lifted so they can prepare to return to normal operations.

HHS did not send that notice on Friday, the deadline, which means the state of emergency has been extended until spring, an administration official said. How the US is handling Covid this fall and winter will help determine whether the state of emergency needs to be reimposed again in the future, Becerra told reporters in October.

The public health emergency, first declared in January 2020 and extended every 90 days since then, has had a huge impact on the US healthcare system. The Declaration greatly expanded public health coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Enrollment in these programs increased by 26% during the pandemic to a record high of over 89 million as of June.

HHS estimates that up to 15 million people could lose their Medicaid or CHIP once programs return to normal.

The emergency declaration also gave hospitals and other healthcare providers more flexibility in how they operate.

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