What changes will people see as COVID public health emergency ends?

Published: May. 10, 2023 at 5:13 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Since the start of 2020, the nation has been under a public health emergency but that’s about to change.

“We’ll always be a little concerned about it because it’s here forever,” said Norman Smith of Williston.

Like other Vermonters, Smith said he’s looking forward to the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Starting Thursday, May 11, the COVID-19 public health emergency will expire on the national level which will bring some changes here in Vermont.

“People who have insurance and want to obtain antigen tests for use at home may find that there’s now a cost associated with that. There’s also going to be implications with regard to treatments like Paxlovid,” Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said.

Levine said certain pandemic-related provisions will take time to phase out. For example, when it comes to vaccines, the federal government will continue to cover the cost and at-home tests will still be available at specific locations throughout the state.

Dr. Jan Carney, an Associate Dean at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM said the switch will also impact how the virus is tracked, going from sustained emergency to long-term disease management.

“Data reporting-- you’ll notice likely differences in the CDC’s website and how they’re reporting it and more like other infections that might be reported as opposed to very specific, dedicated pages for that,” Carney said.

Levine said while there are physical changes coming, Vermonters should feel a sense of relief.

“It does indicate yet another step in our progress toward getting to that endemic point. Where we’re kind of just living knowing that the virus is around but it doesn’t have the same threat that it had earlier in its existence,” he explained.

Despite that, Levine said Vermonters should still take precautions in certain situations.

Some said they still plan to take precautions.

“I don’t think we’re back to normal but I think we’re heading that way and I’m looking forward to that,” said Donna Kelley of Milton.

“You just have to be aware of your surroundings and who you’re around... And if you need a mask, wear a mask, and if you need to social distance, social distance,” said Linda Cassidy of Middlebury.

Health officials said they will also continue to track variants and subvariants during the switch.