White House Preparing to End COVID-19 Emergencies in May

January 31, 2023 by Dan McCue
White House Preparing to End COVID-19 Emergencies in May
The White House (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — The White House said Monday that President Biden will end dual national emergencies declared to deal with the COVID-19 public health crisis in May, nearly three years after they were first declared.

The announcement came 24 hours before the Republican-controlled House was to vote on two measures aimed at rescinding national emergencies. 

The first, H.J. Res. 7,  is a resolution relating the national emergency declared by Biden on March 13, 2020, while the second, H.R. 382, the Pandemic is Over Act, would terminate the original public health emergency declared by Trump Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, on Jan. 31, 2020.

The emergencies have been extended repeatedly by Biden since he took office in January 2021, and are set to expire in the coming months. The White House said Monday that Biden plans to extend them both one more time, and then allow them to expire on May 11.

He was doing so, the Office of Management and Budget wrote in a Statement of Administration Policy, because “an abrupt end to the emergency declarations would create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system — for states, for hospitals and doctors’ offices, and, most importantly, for tens of millions of Americans.” 

The White House went on to say “continuation of these emergency declarations until May 11 does not impose any restriction at all on individual conduct with regard to COVID-19. They do not impose mask mandates or vaccine mandates. They do not restrict school or business operations. They do not require the use of any medicines or tests in response to cases of COVID-19.”

To be sure, Congress has been winnowing down its support for the public emergency for months, even before Republicans took control of the chamber.

Among other things, it has refused to consider the Biden administration’s request for billions more dollars to extend free COVID-19 vaccines and testing. 

But the White House said Monday passage of H.R. 382 and H.J. Res 7 could be problematic in other ways.

For instance, it said, the end of the public health emergency will end the Title 42 policy at the border. 

“While the administration has attempted to terminate the Title 42 policy and continues to support an orderly lifting of those restrictions, Title 42 remains in place because of orders issued by the Supreme Court and a district court in Louisiana,” it said.

“Enactment of H.R. 382 would lift Title 42 immediately, and result in a substantial additional inflow of migrants at the Southwest border,” it continued.

According to the White House, the number of migrants crossing the border has been cut approximately in half since the administration put in place a plan in early January to deter irregular migration from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti. 

“The administration supports an orderly, predictable wind-down of Title 42, with sufficient time to put alternative policies in place. But if H.R. 382 becomes law and the Title 42 restrictions end precipitously, Congress will effectively be requiring the administration to allow thousands of migrants per day into the country immediately without the necessary policies in place,” the White House said.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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