ATLANTA — The U.S. Department of Health and Human services officially ended the COVID-19 public health emergency Thursday. With that, some of the things most Americans became accustomed to in the past three years are going away.
One thing is not changing: the virus continues to be deadly.
The CDC reports COVID-19 takes about 1,000 lives a week in the U.S. It's recommended people with high-risk factors continue to get their vaccines.
The end of this public health emergency is something people across the country and right here in Georgia have been waiting for.
"Because we have vaccines and treatment, really there's no emergency any longer," said Dr. Cecil Bennett of Newnan Family Medicine.
Bennett said three things won't change with the COVID public health emergency coming to an end.
"The good news is that we'll still have access to free vaccines. We'll have access to treatment options, which is fantastic, and also very importantly access to telehealth," Bennett said.
The vaccine requirement now ends for federal employees and contractors. Also changing is access to free test kits.
"That will only be available to certain communities, and I suggest people contact their local health department to see if their community actually has those tests for free," Bennett said.
Dr. Sujatha Reddy, 11Alive's medical expert, said COVID will continue to be a part of everyone's everyday vernacular going forward. She said how the coronavirus is treated will also be different.
"We're going to be hearing people that contract it, come down with it, may not come to an event because they tested positive. It's going to be very similar to the flu," Reddy said.
Bennett mentioned that COVID may no longer be a pandemic, but it's not gone.
"The flu has been with us every single year for most of our lives, and there are always changes every year in strains of the flu, which is why we get a flu shot every year," Bennett said.
The CDC no longer has legal authority to require labs report COVID-19 testing results, so the data may not be as accurate.
The CDC will now rely on voluntary reporting from more than 450 labs.