The national COVID-19 public health emergency ended on Thursday, representing a symbolic conclusion to the health crisis that disrupted society and claimed millions of lives. In New York, where many COVID-19 restrictions have already been lifted, the impact of this decision is expected to be minimal. Despite the termination of the federal vaccine mandate for government-funded hospitals and nursing homes, local healthcare workers are still required to comply with state-level COVID-19 regulations.
The healthcare sector is the last to see government mandates on masking, testing, and vaccinations relaxed. The state’s mask mandate for healthcare workers was discontinued in February, leading many healthcare facilities to stop requiring mask use. Local healthcare executives are now advocating for the relaxation of vaccination requirements to address staff shortages and facilitate rehiring. Dr. Steven D. Hanks, President & CEO of St. Peter’s Health Partners, stated that the lifting of the mandate could encourage former employees to return to work.
As the federal health emergency concludes, changes in healthcare access are anticipated. Insurance coverage for COVID-19 tests is being terminated, but the federal government will retain a stockpile of testing kits available for free at designated community locations. Requirements for COVID-19 testing and visitation at long-term care facilities will be softened. Meanwhile, access to COVID-19 vaccinations and certain treatments will not be immediately affected, and telehealth flexibilities for people with Medicare will continue until December 2024.
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