The Biden administration quietly admitted its plan to end the COVID-19 emergency declarations Monday, three years after the start of the pandemic.
In a statement of policy from the White House Office of Management and Budget, the White House admitted that it would file one last extension of the national and public health emergency declarations on April 11, then would end both one month later, on May 11. The memo comes in response to two bills in Congress that would force the end of these declarations.
“The COVID-19 national emergency and public health emergency (PHE) were declared by the Trump Administration in 2020,” OMB said in its statement. “They are currently set to expire on March 1 and April 11, respectively. At present, the Administration’s plan is to extend the emergency declarations to May 11, and then end both emergencies on that date. This wind-down would align with the Administration’s previous commitments to give at least 60 days’ notice prior to termination of the PHE.”
“To be clear, continuation of these emergency declarations until May 11 does not impose any restriction at all on individual conduct with regard to COVID-19.,” OMB continued. “They do not impose mask mandates or vaccine mandates. They do not restrict school or business operations. They do not require the use of any medicines or tests in response to cases of COVID-19.”
But the policy was announced in a statement intended to criticize two bills in the House of Representatives that would end the emergency declarations by force. The first, H.R. 382, a.k.a. the ‘‘Pandemic is Over Act,” was introduced by Kentucky Republican Rep. Brett Guthrie; it would terminate the public health emergency. The second, House Joint Resolution 7, was authored by Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar; it would terminate the national emergency.
In its statement, the White House railed against the two bills. First, the White House claimed that terminating the Declaration would create chaos in the health care system. Ending the public health emergency would jeopardize Medicaid funding given to states by abruptly ending provisions passed by Congress, the OMB memo argued.
Furthermore, the OMB argued that ending the emergency would create chaos in hospitals and nursing homes by doing away with the flexibilities from the pandemic, disrupting care, delaying payments, and costing facilities money. Ending the emergency would also jeopardize telehealth services, the office claimed.
Second, the end of the public health emergency will end Title 42. The administration is still trying to end the policy that allows border agents to turn migrants away on an expedited basis, but it was stopped by the Supreme Court. “[I]f H.R. 382
becomes law and the Title 42 restrictions end precipitously, Congress will effectively be requiring the Administration to allow thousands of migrants per day into the country immediately without the necessary policies in place,” the policy memo argued.
“The Administration strongly opposes enactment of H.R. 382 and H.J. Res. 7, which would be a grave disservice to the American people,” the OMB concluded.
The Biden administration has struggled to put forth a consistent message since President Joe Biden declared that “the pandemic is over” in a 60 Minutes interview in September. Last week, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre repeated that the pandemic is not yet over. “COVID isn’t over. We’ve been very clear about that,” Jean-Pierre said at a briefing Tuesday. “Hundreds of Americans are dying every day and cases are increasing right now today. That’s why we take common sense measures like COVID testing ahead of large indoor gatherings at the White House.”