Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra answers questions during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to discuss reopening schools during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., September 30, 2021.
Greg Nash | Pool | Reuters
The U.S. is extending the Covid public health emergency through the spring of 2023, a Biden administration official said on Friday.
The decision to extend emergency comes as public health officials are expecting another Covid surge this winter as people gather more indoors where the virus spreads easier. The future also remains uncertain as more immune evasive omicron subvariants become dominant in the U.S.
The Health and Human Services Department previously extended the public health emergency until January. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra has promised to give health-care providers 60 days notice before lifting the emergency declaration so they can prepare for a return to normal operations.
HHS did not send that notice out on Friday, the deadline, which means the emergency has been extended through the spring, the administration official said. How the U.S. fares against Covid this fall and winter will help determine whether the emergency needs to be renewed again moving forward, Becerra told reporters in October.
The public health emergency, first declared in January 2020 and renewed every 90 days since, has had a vast impact on the U.S. health-care system. The declaration has dramatically expanded public health insurance through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Enrollment in these programs increased 26% during the pandemic to a record of more than 89 million people as of June.
HHS has estimated that as many as 15 million people could lose Medicaid or CHIP once the programs return to normal operations.
The emergency declaration has also given hospitals and other health-care providers more flexibility in how they operate.