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The Democratic administration of Joe Biden can’t seem to move on from the pandemic.
Though COVID-19 infections are nowhere near the levels they were in 2020 or even 2021, the White House is considering extending the pandemic emergency through the November midterm elections, according to a Saturday report.
Citing three people with knowledge of the situation, Politico reported that the decision has not yet been finalized. However, if it does happen, federal measures protecting Americans’ health care coverage, vaccine access, and treatments would be extended.
“COVID is not over,” one senior Biden official told the outlet. “The pandemic is not over. It doesn’t make sense to lift this [declaration] given what we’re seeing on the ground in terms of cases.”
If the proposed extension is OKed by President Joe Biden, the Department of Health and Human Services will keep the current declaration in place past the midterms and most likely into next year.
The outlet continued:
An HHS spokesperson declined to comment, and the people with knowledge of the matter cautioned the situation could still change ahead of an Aug. 15 deadline for deciding whether to let the declaration continue.
The Biden administration has increasingly pointed to the availability of Covid vaccines and treatments as evidence that Americans who are vaccinated and boosted can live with the virus in relative safety. But even with that new posture, many administration health officials remain wary of the message that ending the public health emergency declaration would send at a time when caseloads are topping 100,000 a day.
“It will end whenever the emergency ends,” one senior administration official said, summing up the internal attitude toward the declaration.
That said, Politico noted further that “the debate around continuing the declaration…has grown more contentious.”
“With vaccines and treatments widely distributed and no remaining expectation the administration can eradicate Covid, health officials over the last several months have increasingly discussed when that phase-out should occur, and what it should look like,” the outlet reported.
Ending the emergency declaration, however, may spark major pushback from the broader healthcare industry as well as spur criticism from public health organizations that are still on the front lines dealing with combatting the virus and getting more Americans vaccinated, Politico added.
“Some health officials also feared that formally ending the public health emergency would dampen any remaining sense of urgency in Congress to allocate additional money toward the Covid response,” the outlet continued.
“The administration’s request for billions more dollars to bolster its stockpiles of vaccines, tests and treatments has stalled for months in the Senate, even as officials warn the funding shortage risks hampering their ability to continue the pandemic fight,” the report said.
Due to the current spike in cases, some localities are reviving COVID-era policies and mandates such as universal masking.
ABC News reported last month:
Cities and counties throughout the United States are considering reinstating mask mandates as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise.
In Los Angeles County, 8,091 new infections were reported on Friday, the latest date for which data is available, according to the Department of Public Health. This is an increase of 50% from the 5,391 cases recorded at the beginning of the month.
Experts have said the increase is due to BA.5, a highly contagious offshoot of the omicron variant that is better at evading immunity — at least partially — from both vaccines and previous infections.
At present, that is the dominant strain of the virus, comprising nearly 78 percent of all new cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In an area taking in Arizona, California, and Nevada, it is nearly 80 percent.
“What’s more, the county’s average test positivity rate has remained consistently high, currently sitting at about 16%, said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health,” ABC News adds.
The outlet also reported that officials in Democrat-run King County, Washington — which includes Seattle — are also discussing bringing back some COVID measures.