More than a dozen House Republicans introduced legislation declaring that the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
The Pandemic Is Over Act, from Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., simply states that the public health emergency declared by the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) in 2020 in response to COVID “shall terminate on the date of enactment of this Act.”
Guthrie proposed the bill less than a week after HHS extended the COVID emergency until mid-April. HHS has now maintained the emergency declaration for three years and said last week that a public health emergency exists as a result of the “continued consequences” of COVID.
That decision came more than three months after President Joe Biden declared in an interview that “the pandemic is over.” He also added, however, that America still has a “problem with COVID” and that the administration is “doing a lot of work on it.”
Practically, the extension of the public health emergency (PHE) gives the government leeway in how it operates federal health programs and limits the liability of medical practitioners who treat patients with COVID. But politically, Republicans argue that the U.S. is well past the state of emergency that existed in early 2020, and Guthrie said the point of his bill is to make sure the Biden administration heard what Biden said in September.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is over,” Guthrie said. “Despite President Biden admitting this in September, his administration just authorized the 12th extension of the COVID-19 public health emergency. It is long overdue for President Biden to end the COVID-19 public health emergency and relinquish the emergency powers that he just renewed again.”
“President Biden’s inaction and lack of transparency on this are unacceptable,” he added. “I introduced the Pandemic Is Over Act to prevent any more delays by forcing the Biden administration to finally release and execute a plan that my House Republican colleagues and I have been repeatedly pressing for to unwind the PHE.”
Guthrie and other Republicans urged the Biden administration nearly a year ago to start unwinding the public health emergency measures in place, including lifting all vaccine and mask mandates and finding ways to make sure seniors’ access to telehealth services does not dissipate.
Guthrie’s bill is cosponsored by 14 other House Republicans.