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COVID-19: What the end of the emergency means for you
May 8, 2023—After more than three years, the COVID-19 public health emergency will officially end May 11. Wondering what that means for you? Here's what to know, based on information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other sources.
Q. Why is the emergency ending if COVID-19 is still here?
COVID-19 may be here to stay, but we're better able to cope with it now. More than 92% of American adults have had at least one dose of the vaccine, and effective treatments are available.
Q. Are the vaccines still approved?
Yes. This doesn't affect vaccines, tests, or treatments that received emergency use authorization (EUA) or full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration during the pandemic.
Q. Will I have to pay for my COVID-19 vaccines?
Most people will have no out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 vaccines. But, just like when you get your flu vaccine, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re in-network. HHS also plans to keep vaccines and treatments, such as Paxlovid, free for people who do not have insurance.
Q. Where can I get a free COVID-19 test now?
You can still request free at-home tests at COVID.gov/tests while supplies last. Your state and local health department and your local pharmacy may have free tests too. Have tests on-hand already? Remember to double-check their expiration dates before you toss them.
If you need a no-cost lab test, you can find one at testinglocator.cdc.gov.
Insurance coverage for lab and at-home COVID-19 tests will vary—check with your health plan to see what's covered.
Q. Can I still use telehealth?
During the peak of the pandemic, telehealth was an important way to access care. Many of the new options that became available during that time will continue. For example, regulations are changing to ensure that people with substance use disorder can continue to access telehealth treatment.
Q. Should I still take precautions to avoid COVID-19?
Yes, especially if you’re at high risk for severe COVID-19. That includes older adults and people with weakened immune systems or certain health conditions.
To help protect yourself and others from getting very sick with COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends:
- Practicing good handwashing.
- Staying up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccines and boosters.
- Taking a COVID-19 test if you suspect you might be sick.
- Staying home if you suspect you have COVID-19.
You can learn more about how to protect yourself and those around you in our Coronavirus topic center.
- American Academy of Family Physicians. "Public Health Emergency Ending: 6 Things to Know." https://www.aafp.org/news/health-of-the-public/phe-end-6-things.html.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "How to Protect Yourself and Others." https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html.
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "Fact Sheet. CMS Waivers, Flexibilities, and the Transition Forward from the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency." https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/cms-waivers-flexibilities-and-transition-forward-covid-19-public-health-emergency.
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. "Fact Sheet: COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Transition Roadmap." https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2023/02/09/fact-sheet-covid-19-public-health-emergency-transition-roadmap.html.
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. "Fact Sheet: HHS Announces 'HHS Bridge Access Program For COVID-19 Vaccines and Treatments' to Maintain Access to COVID-19 Care for the Uninsured." https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2023/04/18/fact-sheet-hhs-announces-hhs-bridge-access-program-covid-19-vaccines-treatments-maintain-access-covid-19-care-uninsured.html.