Earlier this year, the Biden administration announced that the United States will end COVID-19 emergency declarations on May 11, nearly three years after they were put in place. Local health officials are still learning about the potential local impact, but don’t anticipate big, immediate changes when the declarations expire.
Among other provisions, the emergency declarations allowed individuals to receive free testing, vaccines and treatments related to the virus. Once the declarations expire in May, the cost will be transferred to private insurance and government health plans. How that transfer happens, though, is still being worked out.
“It's been an arduous three years,” said Wallingford Health Director Vanessa Bautista, “and even though it seems that we are almost at the light at the end of the tunnel as this public health emergency ought to be declared over in May, the aftermath of this pandemic that will continue to make the years ahead challenging for not just health officials but also society as a whole.
“But what does this declaration of this public health emergency ending mean? It means we are moving to another phase. The good news is that it is a progressive, post-pandemic stage. The bad news is, what does this mean for vaccinations and testing that have been administered at no cost so far?” she added.
According to Bautista, the Wallingford Health Department plans to use grant funding to continue distributing COVID-19 tests to the community at no cost. In addition, the department will keep offering COVID-19 vaccines as needed since it’s not an established community health clinic.
According to Adriana Rodriguez, executive director at the Spanish Community of Wallingford, the Wallingford Health Department often partners with SCOW to offer free vaccine clinics to the community.
“We plan to work closely with Vanessa and the health department to make the best decision on the continuation of the vaccine clinics,” Rodriguez said. SCOW has become a familiar place to get COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. Overall, the organization has held 83 vaccine clinics for the community.
SCOW is also still planning to partner with the state Department of Public Health, Griffin Health, and Hartford HealthCare until they are no longer providing their services.
According to Elisabeth Michel, equity system transformation manager at Hartford HealthCare, the healthcare network’s Neighborhood Health initiative provides community-based health prevention, care and services to folks right out in the community.
“Neighborhood Health is one of the places where folks will be able to continue accessing testing, as well as vaccines,” Michel said. “If somebody comes to us, and they have insurance, we will take their insurance. But if they're underinsured, if they're uninsured, regardless of ability to pay, they can come and get the care that they need.”
In addition, Michel says that Medicaid coverage for COVID-19 tests and vaccination will still remain through September 2024.
For more information on Neighborhood Health, visit https://hartfordhealthcare.org/health-wellness/neighborhood-health.
Lea Crown, Meriden director of health and human services, said she continues to have calls with colleagues about what exactly the impact will be and more information will likely come out closer to when the declarations end.
Crown ordered 2,700 additional home COVID-19 test kits for the community, trying to help residents get the most out of the assistance while it’s still in place.
“I’m trying to order as many as I can before May so that we can hand them out before the declaration ends,” she said.
The Meriden Health Department is hosting a test kit distribution event on today from 4-6 p.m. at 165 Miller St. Each household in Meriden is limited to four COVID-19 testing kits. Masks are required upon entering the building.