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COVID Public Health Emergency Ends…Now What?

  • Published
  • 11 May 2023
  • Category
  • General

The federal COVID-19 public health emergency declaration that was issued on Jan. 31, 2020, was lifted today, marking a transition to “sustainable public health practice.”

The decision is based on declining rates of infection and collective measures that have been put into place to help prevent and manage the spread of disease, according to a Department of Health and Human Services fact sheet. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) ended its Public Health Emergency of International Concern for COVID-19 on May 5. A WHO committee cited declines in hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions and high levels of population immunity to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, as reasons for shifting to long-term pandemic management.

What Happens Now?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports:

  • COVID vaccines will continue to be provided at no cost to adults and children.
  • Insurance providers will no longer be required to waive costs or provide free COVID-19 tests. (Refer to the CDC’s No-Cost COVID-19 Testing locator)
  • Medications such as Paxlovid to help prevent serious symptoms will remain available for free while supplies last. After that, the price consumers will pay and be reimbursed for medications will be determined by the manufacturer and health insurers.
  • The CDC and its partners will continue to monitor the impact of COVID and the effectiveness of prevention and control strategies. The way related data are collected and reported will change over time.

WorkCare Recommendations

While it’s understandable why everyone is breathing a sigh of relief, it’s advisable for employers to continue to maintain workplace infectious disease prevention programs and protocols, remain vigilant and be prepared to respond to any type of respiratory illness outbreak.

We expect some WorkCare clients to have their human resource teams manage return-to-work after a COVID-related absence the same way they manage other kinds of illnesses, such as the flu. Employers who do not want to assume that responsibility may continue to use WorkCare for return-to-work evaluations via our secure WorkMatters portal or engage with our medical concierge service in special circumstances.

“The end of the public health emergency is not an end to CDC recommendations,” WorkCare Associate Medical Director Isabel Pereira, D.O., M.P.H., reminds us. “A minimum five-day day isolation period with a positive COVID test and return to work with a high-quality mask through the 10-day mark (the full contagious period) is still recommended.”

To help prevent COVID outbreaks, voluntarily wearing an N-95 or KN-95 mask as a precautionary measure, especially in crowded public places, is an option. Dr. Pereira recommends self-masking if ill and testing three-to-seven days from the start of symptoms. (The CDC recommends testing on day five or six.) As feasible, it’s advisable for employees to work from home at the start of symptoms, whether it’s influenza or COVID, because those are the most contagious days.

WorkCare also recommend following CDC guidance for vaccination: Anyone over age 65 who has already been vaccinated and received a booster shot is advised to get a second booster if it has been more than four months since they received their first bivalent booster. Immunocompromised adults of any age are advised to get a second booster after two months.

WorkCare physicians track public health developments, including the spread of animal-borne and human-borne viruses that could impact working populations. To learn more, contact us at

Related Resources

Did You Know?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved use of a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine for the prevention of this lower respiratory tract disease in people over age 60. Although RSV typically causes mild, cold-like symptoms, it can be deadly to the elderly, young children, and people with chronic heart or lung disease or weakened immune systems.