Monday marked the end of the three-year national emergency declared by the United States in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. President Joseph Biden signed a bipartisan congressional resolution to end the emergency weeks before it was set to expire alongside another public health emergency.
As per The Associated Press, the national emergency permitted the government to take extensive measures to combat the pandemic and support the nation’s economic, health care, and welfare systems. Some of the emergency measures have been effectively phased out, while others are still in the process of being eliminated. The public health emergency, which supports stringent immigration restrictions at the U.S.-Mexico border, will end on May 11.
The White House announced in a one-line statement on Monday that President Joe Biden had signed the measure behind closed doors, despite having opposed the resolution publicly but not to the point of issuing a veto. More than 197 Democrats in the House voted against it when it was enacted in February by the GOP-controlled chamber. Biden informed senators last month that he would sign the bill after it was approved by a vote of 68-23.
As soon as it became apparent that Congress was moving to expedite the end of the national emergency, the administration reportedly expedited agency preparations for a return to normal procedures. Among the alterations: The COVID-19 mortgage forbearance program of the Department of Housing and Urban Development is set to expire at the end of May, and the Department of Veterans Affairs is now requiring in-home visits to determine eligibility for caregiver assistance.
Legislators did extend for an additional two years the telehealth flexibilities that were introduced as COVID-19 took effect, allowing health care systems across the country to routinely provide care via smartphone or computer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 1.13 million Americans have died from COVID-19 in the past three years, including 1,773 in the week ending April 5.
Alex Azar, then-Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Donald Trump, proclaimed a public health emergency on January 31, 2020, and Trump declared the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency in March of that year.
Biden has repeatedly extended the state of emergency since assuming office in January 2021, and he has expanded the use of emergency powers since assuming office.