The federal public health emergency related to the coronavirus pandemic likely will extend through 2021, Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Norris Cochran said Friday in a letter to governors.

“[W]hen a decision is made to terminate the declaration or let it expire, HHS will provide states with 60 days’ notice prior to termination,” he wrote.

Less than two weeks earlier, on Jan. 7, outgoing HHS Secretary Alex Azar had extended the public health emergency, which was set to expire Jan. 23. Azar’s extension became effective Jan. 21 and lasts until April. He first had declared it in January 2020, and it was renewed in April, July and October 2020.

The move keeps in place the temporary 6.2% increase in federal Medicaid matching funds included in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, as well as other Medicaid and Medicare emergency waivers that became effective during the pandemic. The increase, officially known as the Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentage, or FMAP, will expire at the end of the quarter in which the public health emergency ends, Cochran noted.

“In light of the PHE extension, you can expect the continued use of other emergency authorities, including Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act declarations and emergency use authorizations (EUA) for diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines,” he said. “The Department will consider the use of any available flexibility to aid states in their response to this PHE.”

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