VIRGINIA – Just over three years since COVID-19-prompted lockdowns, the federal government will lift the public health emergency order.
It ends on May 11. Virginia Department of Health Epidemiologist Dr. Laurie Forlano said it’s likely due to decreasing case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths.
In the last seven days, Virginia has averaged 306 newly reported cases a day, according to data from the Department of Health. Last year at this time, Virginia averaged 995.
Forlano said that most Americans have COVID-19 antibody protection now, whether it’s from vaccines or already being infected by the virus.
“Cautious relief, cautious optimism,” Dr. Forlano said. “It’s definitely been quite a journey as a public health professional, as a mother, as just a person living through this pandemic, so it’s been a really long two or three years.”
Dr. Forlano said during those years, medical professionals in the Commonwealth have learned a lot.
“We’ve enhanced our data systems, we’ve really built out some robust vaccine programming or built upon what we already had in place,” Dr. Forlano said. “There’s been a lot of tools and systems that’ve been put in place as a result of the pandemic.”
Dr. Forlano said people still need to stay vigilant when it comes to COVID-19. She said vaccines are still available, at no cost, but that may change over time.
Telemedicine became an essential form of care during the peak of COVID-19. Kathy Wibberly with UVA’s Center for Telemedicine said there will soon be limitations on the practice.
“When the federal emergency ends on May 11 that goes back to you need to have an in-person visit before we can prescribe controlled substances,” Wibberly said.
Dr. Forlano said COVID-19 testing will still be available, but free test sites may be downsized. According to CVS Health, no-cost at-home COVID-19 tests end May 11 for most insurance plans.
Dr. Forlano said all of the changes doesn’t mean Americans should let their guard down just yet.
“It’s important to still remain aware and vigilant of COVID-19 and still take precautions to protect ourselves,” Dr. Forlano said.
She said VDH will continue to keep updated COVID-19 information on their website.