Douglas County Health Department discusses end of COVID emergency
With the end of the emergency, COVID-19 tests and vaccines may come at a cost.
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency will be allowed to end on May 11.
The Douglas County Health Director tells us the end of the public health emergency doesn’t mean the pandemic is over.
“There are certainly still people who are getting sick with COVID,” said Dr. Lindsay Huse. “People are even still dying with COVID. That has really slowed and decreased because of the availability of vaccines, increased immunity in the communities...[but] COVID is still alive and well and spreading throughout every community.”
The end of the emergency declaration does mean fewer federal dollars will make their way to the state and local levels. Without those resources, things like free COVID testing kits will no longer be free.
“We still have a handful that are still available here at the health department,” Huse said. “There are likely still a few available at area libraries, but once that supply is exhausted, unfortunately, it’s gone, and it will really be up to healthcare providers and local pharmacies to be supplying those. And again, those may be at a cost.”
Pharmacies will have to pay for COVID vaccines once the emergency ends as well. David Kohll of Kohll’s Pharmacy says some people could be stuck with a co-pay, but the majority of people will be covered completely by their insurance.
“Medicaid will also pay 100%,” Kohll said. “People who will be left out are the people that are insured, because as of today if they’re uninsured, we would just administer at no charge. But since pharmacies will have to pay for the cost of goods, then people who are uninsured would have to pay for the vaccine.”
Huse says it’s probably time to end the public health emergency, thanks to vaccine availability and decreased cases and deaths.
“This was something that I’m sure was very well thought out, the consideration for when this was going to start to happen,” Huse said. “They’ve given people at least a bit of time to plan, so we’re grateful for that. The pandemic, while certainly, COVID is still ongoing, we’re going to be living with it in the long-term. There’s a point where we do have to kind of drawdown. It’s not the kind of response work we can maintain indifferently for decades.”
Dr. Huse says the end of the emergency could also spell the end of reporting on things like transmission levels in the community. That could be a concern for healthcare institutions that use that information.
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