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Local officials mark end of the federal government's COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

Jennifer Swanson/NPR

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the end of the federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency on Thursday.

Back in January, President Joe Biden informed Congress that he would end the national emergency and public health emergency declarations for addressing COVID-19 on May 11, NPR reported. The move formally restructures the federal coronavirus response to treat the virus as an endemic threat to public health that can be managed through agencies' normal authorities.

"Although the PHE is ending, COVID-19 has not gone away. We must remain vigilant," said Hawaiʻi Health Director Dr. Kenneth Fink.

Insurance providers will not be required to waive costs for at-home tests. Coverage of testing ordered by a health care provider will vary by insurance type. Testing will remain free for Medicaid patients until September 2024.

Access to vaccines will remain the same. The federal government is currently distributing free COVID-19 vaccines for all adults and children.

"More people in Hawaiʻi got vaccinated than almost any other state. The number was 78.7% got those first two vaccinations which really made it safer to live," Gov. Josh Green said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will stop reporting COVID-19 community levels — but the state Department of Health will carry on with local reporting. Updates on COVID-19 in Hawaiʻi can be found at hawaiicovid19.com.

Nearly 1,200 Hawaiʻi residents died from COVID-19 throughout the pandemic. Hawaiʻi had the lowest COVID-19 mortality rate of any state. Green said the state expected to see over 4,479 deaths each year if no action was taken.

"In the end, we did not see 4,479 people die — far fewer passed away. And each life we lost was heartbreaking. Every story broke our heart. But to imagine over three years more than 12,000 people could have passed if no action was taken, is an extraordinary testament to what people in Hawaiʻi are," Green said.

There has been an average of 63 people in the hospital for COVID-19 and an average of five people in the ICU over the last seven days. Those numbers have been steady for the last six weeks.

Hawaiʻi COVID-19 dashboard as of May 10, 2023.
Hawaiʻi Department of Health
Hawaiʻi COVID-19 dashboard as of May 10, 2023.

Zoe Dym is a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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