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The COVID-19 public health emergency is slated to end on May 11th



Little Rock, Arkansas – New COVID-19 updates show a continued route forward.

Regulations are set to be eased even further in the following weeks, however, local health care professionals advise caution while dealing with the infection.

According to Ahmad Yousaf, CEO and Physician Hospital Director of Saline Memorial Hospital, hospitals were overloaded from the start and throughout the waves of new cases.

“There were no beds at UAMS and Baptist for months and UAMS actually stopped keeping a list of possible transfers because hospitals had already called,” said Yousaf. “They were full with their own patient population so we had to figure it out pretty quickly because we wanted to make sure we were doing what was right for our patients.”

However, now that the worst of the pandemic has passed, the Department of Health and Human Services is allowing the COVID-19 public health emergency to expire on May 11.

According to Dr. Robert Hopkins of UAMS, this will have an impact on various things, including COVID-19 testing, which may soon require a co-pay.

“If you have private insurance, some private insurance is going to pay for those home tests some will not and that’s going to vary a lot by who your private insurance is,” said Hopkins. “The public health emergency expanded Medicaid eligibility. It’s estimated that somewhere between five and 25 million Americans will no longer have health insurance when the public health emergency expires.”

Some people’s co-pays for COVID-19 hospital visits may also rise.

“You know if you or I were hospitalized for COVID under Medicaid or private insurance, we may have more of a copay for that than we would have before the public health emergency expired,” said Hopkins.

When the emergency declaration expires, the CDC will discontinue its color-coded community threat level monitoring, which displays low, medium, and high threat levels.

That means fewer data points from individual communities.

Hopkins advised us to proceed with caution.

“We’re in a much better place than we were at the height of the original wave and the Delta wave and the Omicron wave,” said Hopkins. “But COVID has not gone COVID is still here with us. We’re still continuing to see new variants emerge.”

Yousaf concurs, stating that they have learned throughout the years that the infection is unexpected.

“Based on this experience, there is a certain level of humility that we don’t know everything and we still don’t know everything about this virus,” said Yousaf. “As data comes out, we try to make the best decisions we can. I think it is safe to say at this point we feel comfortable that we are closer to the end of the tunnel than the beginning.”

Hopkins and Yousaf both stated that they will continue to report hospitalizations and COVID-19 deaths to the CDC.