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What happens when COVID-19 emergency declarations end?

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- President Joe Biden wants to end the COVID-19 public health emergencies in May. That means that many Americans would have to start paying for COVID-19 testing, vaccines and treatments.

The emergency declaration provided benefits to help Americans cope with the pandemic. 

Those resources will be eliminated because the virus no longer spreading, but doctors hope people don't get the wrong message

"It's going to make it more complicated, especially for the underserved in our population and folks without insurance," Dr. Emilio Mazza, of Virtua Health, said.  

Mazza, the critical care chief for Virtua Health, says people need to understand that COVID-19 is still a threat, especially to those at risk.

"I worry about the message some people may get," Mazza said. "They feel like OK, the pandemic is over, go out and do whatever you want to do."

COVID-19 numbers are down dramatically, but the virus is still killing 500 Americans a day.

The CDC COVID-19 community levels map shows all of New Jersey with medium to high levels. 


"It's still out there and the big question mark is what's going to happen next?" Mazza said. 

Mazza is worried about the new variant and the low number of people who've received the new booster.

Pfizer says it will charge as much as $130 per dose for its vaccine. 

"This is particularly concerning since COVID disproportionately hits those segments of the population that have the most difficulty accessing good medical care and preventive health services," Dr. William Shaffner, of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said. 

"Even the cost for the drugs we use for when you do get COVID, Paxlovid, I worry about is that going to be prohibitive," Dr. Mazza said. 

In Washington D.C., Republicans want the COVID-19 emergency to end immediately.

"Don't wait until May," Rep. Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana, said. "Let's open our country back up again. Get our economy back up again."

But Biden and Democrats say COVID-19 government relief needs to end gradually. 

"We want to make sure that the vaccine remains accessible to people," Rep. Pete Aguila, a Democrat from California, said. "We want to make sure that testing is available through insurance programs."

Once the emergency declaration is lifted, experts say many insurance companies and some local programs will continue to cover COVID-19 testing, treatments and vaccinations.

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