COVID-19 Public Health Emergency expiring on Thursday

WASHINGTON — The COVID-19 Public Health Emergency expires at the end of the day on Thursday, and Federal health officials say a lot has been accomplished.

According to information released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, since January 2021, COVID-19 deaths nationwide have declined by 95% and hospitalizations are down nearly 91%.

Public Health - Seattle & King County officials have been clear: the emergency is over but the pandemic is not. COVID-19 is still out there.

The agency says people still need to stay up to date on vaccinations, stay home when sick, wear a mask in crowds, and test if they have symptoms.

Treatments and testing will still happen, but not on the government’s dime: you’re going to have pay for it. We know the White House has said vaccines bought by the government will remain free regardless of insurance, but that’s only while supplies last.

Washington state employees will no longer have a vaccine requirement. Gov. Jay Inslee plans to provide a $1,000 payment to eligible state employees who can provide proof of up-to-date COVID vaccinations.

The Washington State Department of Health referred me to a briefing it held last week to get more information on what people can expect now.

WA DOH Director Dr. Umair Shah said people need to remain vigilant.

“We still need to continue to do all (that’s) possible to continue to protect the health and well-being of our loved ones and our communities,” said Shah.

Health officials stressed that we need to continue to be careful when dealing with high-risk groups. Thursday also marks the end of free, at-home COVID tests sent to your door, but you can still get them at pharmacies.

The WA Notify program, which informed people about possible exposure to COVID-19, also ends Thursday.

Health officials did say that the Health Department will continue to support schools with access to testing supplies into the 2023-2024 school year, so if you need testing, that could be another point of access.