What end of COVID-19 federal emergency declaration could mean for southeastern North Carolina

What end of COVID-19 federal emergency declaration could mean for southeastern North Carolina
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 5:19 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - President Joe Biden announced this week his administration will end the COVID-19 public health emergency statuses in place since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020.

This means many uninsured Americans could eventually lose access to free COVID-19 vaccines and at-home tests.

Biden says the emergency declarations will expire on May 11. New Hanover County Interim Health Director Jon Campbell says this shows how the pandemic has shifted.

“I think we are approaching a point where we are able to better navigate pandemic-related COVID items more on a local level, rather than a very reactive [level],” said Campbell. “We needed a large-scale response initially, so I do feel it is appropriate for us to look at this.”

Campbell says as far as what the end of these declarations will mean for folks in southeastern North Carolina, the answer is still unclear. He says the decision is likely to impact access to free COVID-19 vaccines and tests.

“There certainly is some more information that needs to be known about what all of the programs that are impacted by the public health emergency ending are going to look like,” he said. “What we do know, and I think it’s safe to say we’ve known for some time, is that there will be a privatizing of COVID-19 vaccines.”

Right now, the federal government makes vaccines and tests available for free. Come this May, you could be responsible for those costs either out of your pocket or through your insurance provider.

While vaccine demand is low in New Hanover County, Campbell says people are still looking for at-home tests.

“A lot of folks are still interested in the take-home tests because of upcoming travel, family planning arrangements, etc. Not as many individuals coming in to get the vaccine as we saw right before the holidays,” said Campbell.

According to the CDC, New Hanover County is seeing a low transmission rate of COVID-19.