What’s next for COVID-19?

By Regence
May 11, 2023

The World Health Organization has announced COVID-19 is no longer a global public health emergency, and the COVID public health emergency in the U.S. ends this week. So, what’s next for COVID-19?

“This virus is here to stay. It’s still killing and it’s still changing,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference in Geneva last week. But he said the time has come to transition from an emergency response to managing COVID-19 like other infectious diseases.

The number of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 are the lowest seen since the beginning of the pandemic. And although there continue to be new variants of the virus, so far none appear to be particularly concerning. But there do continue to be hospitalizations and deaths. Tedros emphasized the end of the public health emergency doesn’t mean COVID-19 is no longer a threat.

“The worst thing any country could do now is to use this news as a reason to … send the message to its people that COVID-19 is nothing to worry about,” he said.

“We’re now at a point where each of us need to take individual responsibility for our own protection,” said Regence Chief Medical Officer Dr. Donna Milavetz. “I’d recommend keeping an eye on your local hospitalization and wastewater trends. If the COVID-19 numbers start going up in your area, you may want to take extra steps to protect yourself — including wearing a mask, practicing good hygiene, avoiding crowded places and staying up to date on COVID vaccinations. You’ll want to be especially vigilant if you’re immunocompromised or have other high-risk factors.”

Get your recommended COVID vaccinations

Doctors also continue to encourage everyone who is eligible to receive recommended COVID vaccinations. Even if you’re not at high risk of developing severe disease, COVID vaccines decrease your risk of death and serious illness, and can help protect the vulnerable people around you. Medical experts recommend getting the vaccine even if you’ve already had COVID-19. Most Regence members can get the COVID-19 vaccination from an in-network provider as a preventive health benefit with no out-of-pocket costs.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have simplified the COVID-19 vaccination schedule for most individuals. Instead of needing two doses of the original monovalent vaccine, unvaccinated individuals 6 years and older may now receive a single dose of a bivalent vaccine. Individuals 65 years and older or those who are immunocompromised may receive an additional bivalent dose. And if you were previously vaccinated with a monovalent COVID-19 vaccine, you may receive a single dose of a bivalent vaccine. Vaccination options are also available for young children starting at 6 months old. Learn more about vaccines from the CDC.

You could also review the latest guidelines from the CDC on when and how you should be tested for COVID. Many tests are now able to check for both COVID and the flu. For most Regence plans, COVID-19 tests ordered by an in-network provider are covered with a cost share, such as a copay or coinsurance. We don’t cover over-the-counter COVID tests. 

If you do get COVID-19, rest assured Regence will cover the cost of FDA-approved treatment prescribed by your provider in the same way as other regular health plan benefits. Cost shares may apply.

We’re here to help

If you have any questions about your benefits related to COVID-19, you can sign in at regence.com and use the Chat feature, or call us using the number on the back of your member ID card.