TEMPLE, Texas (FOX 44) – The Bell County Public Health District has announced the end of COVID-19 National and Public Health Emergency (PHE) declarations.

The health district says this does not mean that COVID-19 is gone – but it does mean that some resources and services which were expanded or put in to place during the pandemic response are ending. There are many changes coming which might impact residents.

The health district says one of the most prominent changes affecting all residents will be the cost and access to COVID-19 testing, vaccines and treatment. The availability, access and cost of COVID-19 vaccines – including boosters – will not be impacted by the end of the PHE.

As long as the federal government’s supply of vaccines lasts, COVID-19 vaccines will be free to all people regardless of insurance coverage. Once the federal supply of vaccines is depleted, vaccines will continue to be available and free for most people with private and public insurance.

The health district says that coverage for COVID-19 testing and treatment will vary by insurance type – for people with Medicaid coverage, COVID-19 testing and treatment will remain covered
at no cost through September 2024. COVID-19 testing and treatment will no longer be covered for those without insurance, and individual providers will determine the cost. However, free tests and treatment might be available at local free clinics or community health centers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 data surveillance has been the
cornerstone of the health district’s response during the COVID-19 PHE. However, on May 11, 2023, local healthcare providers will no longer be required to send COVID-19 numbers to the local health department for tracking purposes in response to accuracy concerns with the release of COVID-19 home-tests.

In the coming days, the Bell County COVID-19 Dashboard will be removed from the Health District website as part of the end of the public health emergency. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) plans to change the Community Level Metric to another yet-to-be-announced reporting measure.

The health district says the end of the emergency declarations does not mean the virus is no longer a threat. The CDC continues to advise that everyone should stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations, use at-home tests if they have been exposed or have symptoms, stay home if they are sick and wear a high-quality mask when COVID-19 levels are high.

These changes also signal the one-year period of wrapping up the actual public health response, with emergency funding ending in June 2024.