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Biden administration extends COVID public health emergency through April

An AccessBio CareStart COVID-19 antigen home test
Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images
An AccessBio CareStart COVID-19 antigen home test

The Biden administration on Thursday renewed the public health emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic through April, citing concerns over a more transmissible omicron subvariant this winter.

It’s the 12th time the emergency has been renewed since it was originally declared in January 2020. It is renewed for a 90-day period. The most recent declaration was to end Jan. 11.

The COVID subvariant XBB.1.5 accounts for more than 70 percent of cases in the Northeast and about 28 percent nationwide, according to federal data. While case numbers, so far, haven’t been as high as previous surges, a “tripledemic” of COVID, flu and RSV have placed a strain on many U.S. hospital systems.

Days earlier, 25 Republican governors – including Florida’s Ron DeSantis - wrote a letter to urging President Joe Biden to allow the emergency to end in April, noting it has led to a surge in enrollment in state Medicaid programs.

Medicaid is jointly funded by state and federal governments. During the emergency, the federal government has increased its share of the tab by 6.2 percentage points through a formula known as the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage.

But at the same time, state Medicaid programs have not been able to drop beneficiaries who might otherwise be ineligible for coverage. That has helped swell Medicaid rolls in Florida and other states.

In August, the Department of Health and Human Services told local and state health officials to start preparing for an end to the emergency, promising a 60-day notice beforehand.

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