End of National Public Health Emergency
What does the end of the Public Health Emergency Mean?
The federal government plans to end the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency on May 11, 2023. There will be some changes after May 11 that everyone should be aware of. However, federal, state and local public health agencies will continue most activities to help prevent and respond to COVID-19.
Clay County has not been under a public health emergency order since May 14, 2021.
Does This Mean COVID-19 is Gone?
No. COVID-19 is a disease that we will likely see spread in our community for a long time. So far in 2023 (as of 5/5), 1,019 cases of COVID have been reported in Clay County PHC’s jurisdiction. We continue to see people hospitalized due to the virus and even deaths, although numbers are lower than what was seen in 2020-2022.
If you get sick with COVID, you will still need to stay home for five days to isolate. If you're exposed to someone with COVID, it is recommended to wear a mask in public for 10 days after exposure and monitor for signs and symptoms. If symptoms develop, stay home and test.
Continue to Use Prevention Tools, Especially if Immunocompromised
Although the situation nationally is evolving, you can be empowered to know that much of the ability to prevent COVID is still in your hands. There are lots of tools that individuals can use to keep from getting sick.
- Stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations. COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting people—especially those who are up to date— from getting seriously ill, being hospitalized, and even dying. Continue to get boosters as recommended.
- Wear a well-fitting, high quality mask or respirator. Properly fitting respirators provide the highest level of protection.
- Avoid poorly ventilated or crowded indoor settings. When indoors with others, try to improve ventilation as much as possible.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
What IS NOT changing?
Sources of Guidance
- Federal, state and local health departments will continue to be a reliable source for guidance relating to COVID-19. They will still provide information and updates about vaccination, boosters, other prevention measures and guidance for exposure and isolation.
- Availability - COVID-19 vaccines will still be available. The availability of specific types will always vary by clinic, due to supply and current recommendations. Check before you go to make sure a clinic has the type you’re looking for.
- Cost – As long as federally purchased vaccines last, COVID-19 vaccines will still be free to all people, regardless of insurance coverage. After the federal supply of vaccines is gone, vaccines will continue to be free of charge to the vast majority of people with private and public insurance. (This could create barriers for uninsured and underinsured people trying to access vaccination in the future. Learn more about the future of COVID vaccine costs.)
- For those on Medicaid, at-home tests will be free through September 2024.
- Uninsured people in most states were already paying full price for at-home tests. Uninsured and other people who cannot afford at-home tests may still be able to find them at a free clinic, community health center, library, other local organization or through the dwindling federal supply.
- Any pharmaceutical treatment doses (e.g. Paxlovid) purchased by the federal government are still free to all, regardless of insurance coverage.
- Most insured people already faced cost-sharing for hospitalizations and outpatient visits related to COVID treatment. Private insurers were never required to waive cost-sharing for any COVID treatment.
- Most federal data activities will continue. This includes reporting of cases and deaths, national genomic surveillance, wastewater surveillance and more.
Emergency Use Authorizations
- The FDA’s emergency use authorizations for COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and tests will remain in effect. They are tied to a separate emergency declaration, not the public health emergency that ends in May.
What IS changing?
- People insured through Medicaid will no longer be automatically re-enrolled every year. Beginning April 1, 2023, the Family Support Division will be required to restart annual renewals for MO HealthNet (Missouri Medicaid). They will send you important information in the mail, so please make sure to update your mailing address if you have moved. Learn more about annual renewals and what this means for you on the Missouri Department of Social Services website.
- At-home tests may become more costly for people with insurance. After May 11, 2023, people with traditional Medicare will no longer receive free, at-home tests. People with private insurance and Medicare Advantage (private Medicare plans) no longer will be guaranteed free at-home tests, but some insurers may continue to voluntarily cover them.
- Tests ordered or administered by a health professional may no longer be free. Most insured people will still have coverage of COVID tests ordered or administered by a health professional. For people with private insurance and Medicare Advantage, the test and the associated doctor’s visit both might be subject to cost-sharing, depending on the plan. Additionally, some insurers might begin to limit the number of covered tests or require tests be done by in-network providers. For people with traditional Medicare, there will be no cost for the test itself, but there could be cost-sharing for the associated doctor’s visit.
Treatment & Healthcare Visits
- People with public coverage may start to face new cost-sharing for pharmaceutical COVID treatments (unless those doses were purchased by the federal government).
- Telehealth care may be more limited for some people after the end of the public health emergency.
- Labs will not be required to report negative cases. This means that metrics like Percent Positivity and Transmission Levels will likely no longer be reported.
- Hospitals may report data less frequently. Hospital data reporting will continue through April 30, 2024 but reporting may be reduced from the current daily reporting to a lesser frequency.
- Some states may report vaccination data less frequently. This could result in incomplete vaccination data on a national level. This will affect the ability to monitor implementation of vaccine recommendations, identify unvaccinated populations who may be susceptible to COVID-19, and evaluate vaccine effectiveness.
Cost of Vaccination - (update Sept. 2023)
- COVID-19 vaccines are no longer free, in the way they previously were. At Clay County Public Health Center, patients with insurance will be billed through their insurance. Patients on Medicaid, without insurance, or whose insurance does not cover vaccination can receive free vaccination through the Vaccines for Children program or the 317 adult vaccine program. A small administration fee will apply to those who are uninsured or whose insurance does not cover vaccines. However, CCPHC does not turn anyone away for an inability to pay.
What You Can Expect from Clay County Public Health Center
Continued Monitoring of the Spread of COVID
The CCPHC epidemiology team has always used systems, databases and partners to track and monitor diseases spreading in the county. The team then uses this information to communicate with facilities, individuals and the general public as needed. They provide support and guidance for how to slow or contain the spread of whatever disease is being reported.
COVID-19 has joined a long list of diseases and conditions that Missouri health care providers and labs are required to report to local and state health officials. This means that CCPHC will continue to have a glimpse of how much and how quickly COVID is spreading in our community at any given time.
The Clay County Data Hub, an online dashboard that was created in 2020, will continue to be available to the public via the CCPHC website. However, when it comes to COVID-19 data, only case rates and hospitalizations will continue to be updated every week. The dashboard will continue to provide regular updates for flu, emergency room visits, and school data under the Syndromic Surveillance section. Other historical COVID-19 data may continue to be available.
Clay County Public Health Center will continue to offer COVID-19 vaccination options at its clinic. The vaccines are proven to be an effective and safe way to protect people from this harmful disease.
Vaccine options may vary as supply and recommendations change. Please view this webpage for the most-up-to-date information about COVID-19 vaccination at Clay County Public Health Center.