CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — May 11 will mark a significant milestone in the history of the COVID-19 pandemic: the end of the public health emergencies in Illinois and the United States as a whole.
The state and federal emergencies have been in place since the start of the pandemic in 2020. But three years later, Governor J.B. Pritzker and President Joe Biden are allowing the emergency declarations to expire, reflecting the new stance health officials are taking in regard to COVID. They are now treating COVID as an endemic threat as opposed to an active pandemic.
“The public health emergency declaration is ending, but COVID is still out there making people sick and taking lives,” said Julie Pryde, Julie Pryde, Administrator of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District. “Please stay current on vaccinations. If you develop symptoms of COVID, local healthcare providers can test for COVID, influenza, and RSV at the same visit. Determining which virus you have can help get treatment early when it is most effective.”
Prude and other CUPHD officials noted that the end of the public health emergency will result to changes in both COVID testing and vaccination. Private insurance companies are required under the emergency declarations to pay 100% of testing and vaccine costs, but that requirement will end when the public health emergency does.
“The end of the public health emergency declaration means that most waivers enacted during the pandemic which allowed flexibilities in providing and billing for services also end,” said OSF spokesperson Tim Ditman. “The main exception is telehealth services for Medicare enrollees. Those waivers have been extended until the end of calendar year 2024, so services and billing for telehealth services for Medicare enrollees will not change. We will be making necessary adjustments in other areas.”
Also happened as a result of the emergency ending is a closure of testing facilities. SHIELD Illinois testing at the University of Illinois’ Campus Recreation Center East will close on May 26, with the option to relocate to another location until June 30.
The CDC will also reduce its reporting of negative lab tests, which they said will impact the percent positivity metric used for transmission level reporting. Those levels, in turn, are used in healthcare settings to determine prevention measures and mitigation strategies. The CUPHD said it will continue to report transmission levels for as long as the data is available.
The CUPHD said there are several things people can do after May 11 to protect themselves and their community against COVID:
- Stay up to date on COVID vaccines and boosters, including getting a bivalent booster dose. Vaccine locations can be found online.
- Seek immediate treatment if a COVID test comes back as positive
- Maintain hygiene behaviors that were common before and during the pandemic: staying home when sick, washing hands frequently, wearing a mask and social distancing
People are also encouraged to order free COVID tests from the government before May 11. People should reach out to their insurance providers for details about testing costs once the emergency ends
The CDC also said that its Increasing Community Access to Testing (ICATT) program will continue no-cost testing for uninsured persons, though there may be a reduction in testing locations after the emergency ends. Individuals can find a no-cost testing location online.