At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, the federal government established an emergency response plan to quickly respond to the spread of COVID-19 and address financial obstacles related to COVID-19 care. A state of emergency was declared, which is set to end on May 11, 2023. This indicates that there will be changes in how people can access COVID-19 treatment, testing, and vaccines. However, the end of the state of emergency does not imply the end of the pandemic.
The government’s flexibility with COVID-19-related efforts will decrease after the emergency declaration expires. According to Eric Chow, Ph.D., Head of Communicable, COVID-19 vaccines and treatments are available, but ensuring access to these interventions is vital. The virus that causes COVID-19 is still spreading, mutating, and evolving. Vaccination and natural infection have increased community immunity, but COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths still occur, especially among vulnerable populations. Therefore, people should get vaccinated, stay home when sick, wear high-quality masks in crowded places, and get tested when experiencing symptoms.
After the federal vaccine supply runs out in the summer of 2023, the COVID-19 vaccine will shift to the private market. The process of getting vaccinated will be similar to getting flu shots, and adult COVID-19 vaccinations will be covered by most private insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid/CHIP. People with private health insurance may have to pay some cost if the vaccine is provided by a non-network provider, while uninsured individuals can receive the vaccine for free at local public health centers and clinics.
Antiviral drugs like paxlobid can reduce hospitalization and death risks, primarily for high-risk individuals and older adults. Until the federal supply is depleted, they will be provided free, regardless of insurance coverage. The Washington State Department of Health offers telemedicine appointments for COVID-19 treatment. After the federal supply runs out, the cost of COVID-19 treatment will depend on insurance coverage, and community clinics throughout King County will offer treatment, with fees adjusted based on income and household size.
The majority of free COVID-19 testing sites have closed due to federal funding cuts. However, there are still testing sites available in King County, which can be found via Public Health’s or the federal government’s online tool. COVID-19 home tests are now widely available and can be ordered online or obtained for free at pharmacies for those with insurance. Community clinics throughout King County also offer reduced testing fees for uninsured individuals.