HHS: Letter to U.S. Governors from HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra On planning for the COVID-19 PHE

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Executive Summary:

  • This is a letter to U.S. Governors from Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra regarding the end of the Public Health Emergency on May 11, 2023.
  • Sec. Becerra writes that the Biden-Harris Administration successfully implemented the largest adult vaccination program in U.S. history, with over 270 million people vaccinated, leading to a 95% decline in COVID-19 deaths and a 91% decrease in hospitalizations since January 2021.
  • Sec. Becerra writes that despite the PHE ending, the government will continue to prioritize public health, especially for vulnerable groups like seniors and the immunocompromised.
  • The HHS Bridge Access Program will ensure people without health insurance have access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.
  • $5 billion will be invested in Project NextGen to speed up the development of the next generation of vaccines and treatments, and research into Long COVID will continue.

Unedited Press Release Text:

Dear Governor:

On February 9, I announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is planning for the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE), as declared under section 319 of the Public Health Service Act, to end on May 11. As we near that date, I write to thank you for your strong partnership and commitment throughout the COVID-19 response and share additional information and resources that will be helpful as we transition away from the COVID-19 PHE.

Due to the Biden-Harris Administration’s whole-of-government approach to combatting COVID-19, and through partnerships with you and others, we are now in a better place in our response than we were three years ago, and we can transition away from the emergency phase. For example, over the last two years, the Biden Administration has effectively implemented the largest adult vaccination program in U.S. history, with over 270 million people receiving at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. As a result of these and other efforts, since January 2021, COVID-19 deaths have declined by 95% and hospitalizations are down nearly 91%.

Still, we know so many people continue to be affected by COVID-19, particularly seniors, people who are immunocompromised, and people with disabilities. That is why our response to the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, remains a public health priority. To ensure an orderly transition, we have been working for months so that we can continue to meet the needs of those affected by COVID-19. Attached, please find a Fact Sheet with an update on current flexibilities enabled by the COVID-19 emergency declaration and how they will be impacted by the end of the COVID-19 PHE on May 11. You may find other resources regarding the end of COVID-19 PHE here: COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) | HHS.gov.

Beyond the end of the COVID-19 PHE, we will continue to work with you and other partners to protect Americans from the virus and its worst impacts by continuing access to COVID-19 vaccines, and treatments, and tests. As vaccines and treatments transition to the traditional health care market later this year, we will continue to partner with you as we make that transition, including addressing access for the people without health insurance through the “HHS Bridge Access Program For COVID-19 Vaccines and Treatments.” We will continue to advance research into new, innovative vaccines and treatments through an investment of $5 billion in Project NextGen, a dedicated program to accelerate and streamline the rapid development of the next generation of vaccines and treatments, including investments in research, development, and manufacturing capacity and advancing critical science. And we are continuing to invest in efforts to better understand and address Long COVID and to help mitigate the impacts.

Thank you for your sustained partnership throughout the COVID-19 PHE and beyond. Should you have any questions now or in the future, please do not hesitate to contact my team at the HHS Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.


Xavier Becerra
Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


SOURCE: https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2023/05/10/letter-us-governors-hhs-secretary-xavier-becerra-planning-covid-19-phe.html

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