Ending the COVID Emergency is a Disaster for Disabled People

The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies (The Partnership) is appalled at the Biden Administration's lifting of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) as of May 11, 2023. By lifting the PHE, the Administration will be ending COVID-19 treatment and essential supports for disabled people, increasing the spread of disease. By lifting the PHE, the Biden Administration is also communicating to the public that COVID-19 is no longer a threat, willfully ignoring that roughly 400 people still die from the virus each day. Many of the people that die are among the most devalued in our society — older adults; people with disabilities, including people with compromised immune systems; people with low incomes; and Black, Brown and Indigenous people. The Administration is declaring that the loss of 400 of our people per day does not rise to the level of being an emergency.

Lifting the Public Health Emergency will only increase deaths of marginalized people. To the degree that precautions are being taken, these efforts will diminish when the Public Health Emergency is no longer in effect. Deaths could be reduced now by taking precautions, including vaccination, testing, and wearing high-quality masks, but the public remains reluctant and even resistant. Removing the Public Health Emergency adds hurdles to using preventive measures and gives the nation permission to abandon efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. This is being done shortly after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared that treatments such as Evusheld for people who are immunocompromised are not effective.

Disabled and other marginalized people are once again being told that the loss of our lives is inconsequential. Lifting the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency validates the public’s denial of the continued deadliness of COVID-19 and confirms to older adults, disabled people, and Black, Brown and Indigenous people that we are expendable.

The Biden Administration needs to prioritize the unalienable right to life overall, uphold its commitment to equity, and work with the people most affected – instead of playing politics with our lives.

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