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Carney to end Delaware pandemic emergency

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Gov. John Carney will let the state’s public health emergency order expire on May 11, coinciding with when the federal order will end.

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

DOVER – More than three years after it began, the COVID-19 public health emergency is coming to an end – at least in the eyes of state government.

Gov. John Carney announced Thursday afternoon that he intends to let the state’s public health emergency order expire on May 11, coinciding with when President Joe Biden will end the federal order.

“Consistent with the ending of the federal public health emergency, and with Delaware’s continued progress in moving beyond COVID-19, we’ll plan to end our public health order this May,” Carney said in a statement announcing the decision. “We will keep working with businesses and the health care industry as we finalize this transition. Thank you to each and every Delawarean who helped us get to where we are today.” 

As of April 4, the state has a rolling seven-day average of 32 new COVID cases and 60 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 107 people have died from the virus in the first four months of 2023, according to state data.

Under Delaware law, public health emergency orders must be renewed every 30 days and Carney last did so on March 31. He will do so once more before terminating the order on May 11, according to the announcement.

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 31, 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 of Medicaid assistance with the end of the pandemic order, the governor’s office said in press briefing earlier this year.

The end of the federal public health emergency order will also end the blanket insurance coverage of COVID tests, resulting in many insurers to now begin charging plan members for the tests. The state has also closed its Curative testing sites, signaling a lessening demand for COVID testing.

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