CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – The state’s COVID-19 public health emergency officially ends Thursday and that will bring some noticeable changes.
This move comes more than three years since the chaos that ensured in March of 2020, when NBA contests were cancelled mid-game, students sent home from school for an early spring break never to return.
In all, more than two-million people were infected in Massachusetts causing more than 22,600 deaths. The end of the emergency doesn’t mean the battle is over but it does mean the state is moving from crisis mode to management mode.
“I think there should be closure from the regulations that took place and, you know, I think we should just go back to our normal living,” said Janet Avua of Springfield.
A few material changes come with this end. Masks are no longer mandatory in healthcare facilities. However, facilities do retain the right to make their own policies. Vaccines will remain available but will transition over the coming months to a fully commercial product covered by health insurance.
You will still be able to get a COVID-19 test for free from covidtests.gov through the end of the month and some measures that allow free distribution at community locations will remain in place.
The requirement for state employees to be vaccinated is now gone and extra federal funding to states for expanded Medicaid will end.
During the federal emergency, states were not allowed to drop people off Medicaid, known as MassHealth here, growing the program to the largest it has ever been with more than 95-million beneficiaries. Now they can, and will.
Lawmakers expect some 400,000 people don’t meet eligibility requirements. Around 50 percent of benefactors will automatically enroll. Those who aren’t qualified will be notified by mail before their coverage ends.
Behind the scenes, COVID-19 data tracking will scale back:
- Wastewater testing for the virus will remain
- Communities can choose to submit vaccination data
- Positivity rates will now be coming from select labs throughout the country
- Patients who visit the ER with COVID will be tracked
- COVID-associated deaths will be reported weekly
“Data tracking will be done primarily through our hospitals. So our daily tracking that I certainly have spent three years doing will go away and we will relay on hospital data and hospitalizations,” said Helen Caulton-Harris, Commissioner of the Springfield Health and Human Services.
“COVID is still a significant infection in the area, in the United States. So people should still be aware and getting tested vaccinated and protected,” said Dr. Claudia Martorell, an infectious disease specialist.
Moving forward, the CDC will continue to analyze the COVID data it collects to track trends and inform communities if any further public health actions need to be taken.