illustration of person with mask in front of coronavirus
Credit: Texas A&M University College of Engineering

The public health emergency due to COVID-19 has been renewed again for what many experts believe will be the last time.

The extension was not a surprise, given that the government previously promised to give a 60-day notice of when it planned to end the PHE. The previous extension was set to expire today (Jan. 11), meaning that the deadline for providing a 60-day notification would have been Nov. 11.

The PHE now could last until mid-April unless it is renewed again.

With today’s renewal, the COVID-19 PHE now has been extended 12 times in 90-day increments since it began Jan. 31, 2020. Previous HHS Secretary Alex Azar initiated it and then renewed it three times in 2020 — on April 21, July 23 and Oct. 2 — as well as on Jan. 7, 2021. Becerra previously renewed it three times in 2021 — on April 15, July 19 and Oct. 15, 2021 — and four times in 2022 — on Jan. 14, April 12, July 15 and Oct. 13.

In November, American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living President and CEO Mark Parkinson wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra asking that the PHE be extended past Jan. 11 in part “so that long-term and post-acute care providers can continue to offer the most efficient and effective care possible.”

Today’s extension of the PHE comes as a new omicron variant is taking hold across the country and only 38% of adults aged 65 or more years have received a bivalent booster shot, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Hospitalizations and deaths due to the coronavirus are occurring at a higher rate among the elderly than among the general population, but some experts believe that this extension will be the last, given that vaccinations and treatments have reduced hospitalizations and deaths overall. An HHS spokesperson, however, told several media outlets that “the decision to terminate the COVID [public health emergency] will be made by the HHS secretary based on the best available data and science. Any suggestion that a specific end date has been established is untrue.”