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Tipsheet

HHS Extended COVID Public Health Emergency, Even After Biden Claims 'Pandemic Is Over'

Greg Nash/Pool via AP

The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) on Thursday extended the COVID emergency declaration with an order from HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. As Becerra's order notes, the declaration has been renewed every 90 days by him and Trump's HHS Secretary Alex Azar since January 27, 2020. This order goes until January 11, a report from CNBC's Spencer Kimball mentioned on Friday. 

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This is despite how President Joe Biden declared in a "60 Minutes" interview last month that "the pandemic is over." While he also stated that "we still have a problem with COVID," it was that "the pandemic is over" which he chose to emphasize in the interview.

Since that interview, others in the Biden administration, including Dr. Ashish Jha and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre have instead chosen to emphasize the president's point that "we still have a problem with COVID."

This extension comes even after the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) acknowledged in an update from August that "Many people in the United States have some protection, or immunity, against COVID-19 due to vaccination, previous infection, or both. This immunity, combined with the availability of tests and treatments, has greatly reduced the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 for many people."

Where there was concern was for "those who are older, are immunocompromised, have certain disabilities, or have certain underlying health conditions" and how they "continue to be at higher risk for serious illness." There has been such a particular concern for those members of the population from the start. 

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Energy and Commerce Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Health Subcommittee Republican Leader Brett Guthrie (R-KY) released a statement following the move on Thursday, highlighting a dependency on emergency powers. Emphasis is original:

President Joe Biden said himself the COVID-19 pandemic is over. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention is also finally recognizing we are in a very different place. Yet, as today’s renewal indicates, the administration is clinging to its emergency powers and refusing to take responsibility for how it fueled inflation by mismanaging trillions of dollars. It has broken people’s trust with heavy-handed mandates, politically-influenced school closures, and radical pandemic spending for political purposes.

For many months, we’ve been calling on President Biden and Secretary Xavier Becerra to provide a detailed plan to unwind the COVID-19 pandemic emergency. We are again asking for this plan and urging the administration to rebuild trust with the hardworking people of this country.  Americans are eager for a federal government that is less focused on command and control of their lives and doesn’t play politics with public health.”

"#BringBackMasks" was trending over Twitter on Friday, with Twitter also adding context about the trend detailing how "People discuss the use of masks, which health officials have stated are safe and effective at helping prevent the spread of COVID-19, after HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra signed the latest extension of the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration."

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While some called for the return of masks, many highlighted the absurdity. 


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