The Biden White House announced Wednesday that it is extending the COVID public health emergency for another 90 days following increased cases of the latest subvariant.
The announcement extends the public health emergency into April, marking the twelfth extension since it was first set in place by then-President Donald Trump in 2020, allowing millions of Americans to remain eligible for Medicaid benefits.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra has committed to giving state leaders and healthcare executives a 60-day notice before allowing the action to expire.
Millions of Americans could lose health insurance under Medicaid when the extension expires. Enrollment has increased by an additional 24 million Americans since the start of the policy. The Daily Wire previously reported that Medicaid enrollment is expected to hit the 100 million mark soon, according to a recent report.
The renewal occurs as subvariant XBB.1.5 comprises more than 70% of COVID cases in the Northeast and 28% nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As of January 4, an average of 67,000 daily positive cases were recorded, with 390 COVID-related daily deaths.
The CDC’s COVID-19 Integrated County View for reporting shows that nearly 75% of the nation’s counties are considered at high risk for community transmission.
The increased coronavirus, flu, and RSV cases have led to a growing number of schools and other locations returning to masking. The Ann Arbor Public School system in Michigan reintroduced a two-week mask mandate from January 9-20 following increased illnesses in December.
“During this time of return from travel and social activities, the requirement of masks while indoors at school is a measure to reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses and related absenteeism and to prioritize health and in school learning, particularly at this transition time following winter break,” Superintendent Jeanice Swift wrote.
Some schools in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have also returned to required indoor mask-wearing.
Other school systems, such as Chicago Public Schools, asked students and staff to test themselves for COVID before returning to school.
“If you test positive, please report the positive test using the COVID-19 Self-Reporting Form, and follow the guidance outlined on our safety page,” the notice read.
White House COVID-19 Response Director Dr. Ashish Jha addressed the spread of the XBB.1.5 subvariant last week, expressing concern over the increased cases while encouraging the updated vaccine and other measures to minimize risk.