Transitioning from Pandemic to Endemic for COVID-19
The public health emergency has ended for COVID-19. We are here to help understand what this transition means.
A little more than three years after it started, an end has been declared to the COVID-19 federal public health emergency. That means government agencies and health care organizations (including Blue Cross) are scaling back their response to the crisis. The pandemic, however, is not over – we’re just entering a new phase as the virus becomes endemic and we learn to live with it.
Pandemic vs. Endemic
A pandemic is when a disease spreads over a wide geographic area and affects many people. In this age of international air travel, the COVID-19 virus spread quickly around the world and sickened millions in early 2020. The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020.
A disease is considered endemic when it is regularly occurring in an area, yet its spread is not great enough to be out of control. The disease hasn’t been eliminated, but people have learned to live with it. The seasonal flu is an example of an endemic disease. Most of us have learned to cope with it by getting our annual flu vaccine before being exposed to the virus in the fall and winter, and by taking medications like Tamiflu when we become ill.
Has COVID-19 become endemic? More than 4,000 people in the U.S. are admitted to hospitals each day with COVID-19, and more than 1,000 die each week from the disease. A lot of people are still being affected, but the numbers have declined greatly from where they once were. It appears we’re transitioning from pandemic to endemic.
Doctors are divided as to whether COVID-19 has actually reached the endemic phase. Some say it has, pointing to the great success of vaccines and medications in reigning in the disease. Others say we don’t know enough yet to be sure it’s under long-term control.
What it Means for You
While the experts are debating the status of COVID-19, there are steps you can take to adjust to the “new normal” of living with the virus in our communities.
- Keep your vaccination up to date. The effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination declines over time. Consider adding a COVID-19 booster shot to your fall vaccination schedule, along with your annual flu shot.
- Wear a mask in crowded spaces. Mask requirements have been eliminated in many places, but it’s still a good idea to wear one while in crowds, such as on public transportation or attending indoor events.
- Avoid crowds if you can. If you are older or have an underlying health condition, you may want to time your activities so that you’re visiting stores or other indoor locations when they are less busy.
- Check community levels. Keep an eye on how prevalent COVID-19 is in your area. The Vermont Department of Health posts its COVID-19 Surveillance Report weekly, and VTDigger updates its COVID-19 data page weekly.
- Practice good hygiene. Like with flu prevention, you can protect yourself and others by washing your hands often and covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
- Stay home when you’re ill. You can protect others by staying home when you feel sick, so that you don’t spread the disease to people you come in contact with.
- Call your doctor and get tested. If you’re not feeling well, you can test yourself with a home test kit. (Please note that Blue Cross Vermont will no longer cover the cost of COVID-19 home test kits as of July 1, 2023.) Contact your primary care provider, who can do a lab test if needed and begin treatment.
How Blue Cross is Responding
With the end of the federal public health emergency and the transition from pandemic to endemic underway, here’s how we’re continuing to offer coverage for COVID-19 prevention and treatment, effective July 1, 2023.
- COVID vaccinations and booster shots will be covered at no cost to members.
- Tests done by health care providers will be covered with a cost share.
- Oral medications to treat COVID-19 will be covered with a Tier 3 cost share.
- Injectable medications to treat COVID-19, administered by a provider, will be covered with a cost share.
- Inpatient and outpatient care for COVID-19 will have a cost share.
- AmWell telemedicine visits will have a cost share.
For more information about coverage and benefits, check out the COVID-19 updates page on our website.