What the end of the COVID public health emergency could mean for you

The U.S. will no longer consider COVID-19 a public health emergency, beginning Thursday. Here’s what that means for how you can get vaccinated or tested for the virus in the future.

The emergency declaration has been in place since 2020, and as it comes to an end on May 11, the biggest change you can expect to see is access to free at-home COVID-19 test kits.


Most health insurers’ decisions to cover the costs will vary by state.

Traditional Medicare won’t cover at-home testing for seniors. People insured through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program will have access to free testing through September 2024 and certain COVID-19 treatments will remain covered.

The cost for a kit with two tests is roughly $25 but people who haven’t claimed a free test kit from the federal government, can still request it. Free tests may also be available at libraries, through community organizations or health departments.


The end of the public health emergency won’t change access to vaccines, they will remain free of charge.

COVID-19 vaccine mandates for federal workers and federal contractors will end Thursday. The government will also begin lifting requirements for Head Start educators, healthcare workers and noncitizens at U.S. land borders, The Associated Press reported.

Vaccine requirements for large employers and military servicemembers have already been removed.

Lifting the federal mandate doesn’t negate existing mandates from employees such as the National Institute of Health which has required its workforce to get vaccinated against the virus.

The World Health Organization downgraded COVID-19 last week and said the virus is no longer a global emergency.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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