ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — At the end of Thursday, the federal Public Health Emergency for COVID-19 will officially end by the Department of Health and Human Services, based on how current trends in cases are in decline. This will however change how you can access vaccines and free testing.   

Since the beginning of this year, positive coronavirus cases in Monroe County and the Finger Lakes region have been consistently dropping to one of the lowest points they’ve ever been. Dr. Michael Mendoza agrees that it’s to move forward.  

Because of positive COVID-19 cases nationwide in a downward trend according to the Department of Health and Human Services, May 11 is the last day the Federal Public Health Emergency will be enacted. Dr. Mendoza of Monroe County Department of Health believes it’s the right call.  

“The local numbers have been very reassuring; we are not seeing any major impact of COVID-19 in the hospitals any longer,” Dr. Mendoza stated. “And I think that it’s time for us to get back to that new normal.” 

With the emergency expiring, private insurance companies will no longer be required to cover COVID-19 tests without cost sharing. Those who don’t have insurance will also have to pay out of pocket for tests and treatments unless they’re on Medicaid, which offers coverage until September 2024.  

“People who had automatically re-enrolled with Medicaid for example will no longer have that option because the public health emergency is ending,” Dr. Mendoza continued. “We still have a limited amount of vaccine. What is going to be a limited amount of vaccines, what’s going to be different is we’re going to charge insurance and hopefully we’ll get reimbursed but if not, those costs will be passed along to the individual.” 

As long as the Monroe County Health Department supply of federally purchased vaccines lasts, patients will not have to pay for them. Going forward, Dr. Mendoza urges everyone to remember COVID-19 is not gone for good and can still harm the elderly or those deemed immunocompromised.  

“The reality is life expectancy has declined in the United States for three years in a row and we’re not back to pre-pandemic levels unlike other countries around the world,” Dr. Mendoza added. “Who have got back to pre-pandemic levels as far as life expectancy in the wake of COVID-19. So, there’s a lot we still need to learn and heal from.”  

At the beginning of this year, the seven-day average of positive coronavirus cases for Monroe County and the entire Finger Lakes Region was almost 160 cases. But as of yesterday, that number now sits at about 27 positive cases daily.  

To read the full announcement from HHS and learn all the changes to coverage and access to testing or vaccines, click here.