End of public health emergency won’t affect Covid vaccines, testing for now


by Dave Williams | May 9, 2023 | Capitol Beat News Service

Covid-19 tests and vaccines will continue to be offered for free in Georgia despite the ending of the federal public health emergency later this week, Dr. Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of the state Department of Public Health, said Tuesday.

The public health emergency that took first effect in early 2020 will end on Thursday. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is ending the emergency based on declining Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, Dr. Chris Rustin, the state agency’s deputy commissioner, told members of the Georgia Board of Public Health.

“That does not mean Covid-19 is over,” he said. “While cases are down sharply, we still see … 10 to 30 deaths per week in Georgia, mostly in the elderly and immunocompromised.”

Rustin said the end of the emergency will not affect either vaccines or testing, at least in the short run while supplies last. The public health department has enough test kits on hand to continue providing them free over the counter, he said.

There is still a network of testing kiosks around the state as well as several drive-through test sites, Rustin said.

Paxlovid, an antiviral pill used to treat Covid-19, will continue to be offered free in the immediate future, he said.

Rustin said the biggest impact the ending of the public health emergency will have is in data collection. As of Thursday, national reporting of Covid-19 deaths will cease, which will make it impossible to track deaths in Georgia, he said.

In other business at Tuesday’s Board of Public Health meeting, board members approved a resolution to sell $975,000 in general obligation bonds to finance maintenance, repairs, and renovations at public health labs in Decatur and Waycross.