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Gov. Carney ends state’s pandemic emergency

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COVID test antigen state of emegency

COVID tests will no longer be covered by the federal government with the end of the public health emergency. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

DOVER – Gov. John Carney officially ended Delaware’s COVID-19 public health emergency on Thursday, fulfilling a pledge he made several weeks ago to wind down the state’s declaration after more than three years.

The state’s expiration coincided with when President Joe Biden ended the federal order, putting an end to a long chapter in the state and nation’s history.

“Today we are ending the public health emergency here in Delaware. This is consistent with the ending of the federal public health emergency, and with Delaware’s continued progress in moving beyond COVID-19,” Carney said in a statement. “Thank you to each and every Delawarean who helped us get to where we are today.”

As of May 10, the state has a rolling seven-day average of 16 new COVID cases and 30 people were hospitalized with the virus around the state. Deaths from COVID have dropped dramatically as vaccinations have increased and weaker variants have come to the forefront, but still 136 people have died from the virus in the first four months of 2023, according to state data.

Notably, the federal government will no longer track negative COVID tests, so Delaware will no longer track COVID testing results, although positive tests continue to be reportable. 

The public health emergency order is a weaker version of a state of emergency order, which Carney first issued on March 23, 2020, in the wake of the spread of COVID in the U.S. Twice in the last three years, Carney has allowed a state of emergency to expire while beginning a public health emergency, the latest of which began March 1, 2022.

Unlike state of emergency orders, which give the governor powers to order compliance for new mandates with a threat of criminal enforcement, the public health emergency order largely allowed the state and medical providers to continue COVID-19 vaccination and testing programs. It waived regulations aimed at health insurance and staffing and bed ratios related to the care of COVID patients.

It also ensured that the state stayed in compliance with federal regulations so that it was eligible to receive federal funding for COVID response. That notably included enhanced Medicaid enrollment through the pandemic that will now begin to wind down, seeing tens of thousands of Delawareans lose public health care assistance.

The state added about 70,000 people to Medicaid rolls during the pandemic at a cost of about $100 million, and they will gradually be moved off Medicaid assistance with the end of the pandemic order, the governor’s office said in a press briefing earlier this year.

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