Local healthcare officials react to COVID-19 emergencies ending

“It’s going to be with us for a long, long time,” Vetter said.
Essentia Health
Essentia Health(KFYR-TV)
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 6:47 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - It’s been a little over three years since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic, which changed the lives of many forever.

And now, the Biden administration plans to end the COVID-19 public health emergency on May 11, which will cause changes across the healthcare system.

And medical professionals, like Dr. Rich Vetter Chief Medical Officer for Essentia Health West, can see why.

“It’s amazing to think that 3 years have passed. Lots of changes over those three years,” Vetter said. “I think we’re back to kind of a new normal now where COVID is with us.”

But the question that remains is what does this mean to patients that contract COVID-19 after May 11th?

For patients at Sanford Medical, Dr. Steven Briggs, Vice President Medical Officer at Sanford, said that he thinks most day to day operations will remain the same.

“I do not anticipate that any patients will see any changes day to day from where we are now,” Briggs said. “Effective Monday, March 20, we did go back to normal visitor restrictions that were in place before the pandemic.”

Vetter said the biggest change that comes from the medical emergency declaration ending, involves Medicare patients.

“One of the changes that’s going to occur is with our Medicaid population,” Vetter said. “You know, the government put in place with the public health emergency that Medicaid, that the eligibility rules were changed a bit, so more and more people were eligible, and then they didn’t have to re-up every year like they normally would. So people have been on it maybe now for even up to three years. They’re estimating up to 20 million people might lose Medicaid, insurance or coverage. And so they’ll have to go find out that coverage on their own.”

Another major change is regarding testing. As of now, the government has been paying for all testing. Once their supplies run out, individuals will be responsible for their own testing.

A change that that most people seem to enjoy is that Telehealth services will continue until December 2024.

Briggs said that he understands with moving forward, as he expects COVID-19 to be around for quite some time.

“We can’t prevent COVID-19 being in the community by wearing a mask anymore,” Briggs said.

And Vetter agrees.

“It’s going to be with us for a long, long time,” Vetter said.