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Southern Kentucky community members react to end of COVID-19 emergency

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SOMERSET, Ky. (WYMT) – The COVID-19 Public Health Emergency has an end date.

That’s according to President Joe Biden, who says the emergency will end on May 11.

That means that many things that have been free to the public will soon carry a cost.

It’s been almost three years since the world most of us knew was turned upside down. COVID-19 is still out there, and while health leaders say it’s not going away, the President says the emergency situation is coming to a close.

“I’m very happy to hear the public health emergency is ending. It will cause some problems,” said Amy Tomlinson with the Lake Cumberland District Health Department. “But to me, it is a public declaration we are moving past this. We are moving on and coming out stronger on the other side.”

Health departments received a tremendous amount of funding during the pandemic and most tests and vaccines were free to everyone. No public emergency in place will mean no emergency funds, and those costs now get passed on to patients.

“It is going to be a burden for some people who don’t have insurance or are underinsured—those types of things,” Tomlinson said.

A vaccine dose will likely cost to between $50 and $75. Health leaders say even if you’ve never been vaccinated, take advantage of the free service while it is still around.

“Absolutely it’s never too late to get vaccinated,” Tomlinson said. “Covid is still in our community. People are still dying from it.”

According to the latest state transmission map, most of the state is in the low to medium levels of community spread, with many counties in far Southeastern Kentucky in the red zone.

“Get hold of the free tests. There are free tests available at the health department, you can call and request those,” Tomlinson added. “You can have those delivered right to your door from the US Postal Service.”

All of that ends in May, and getting a COVID-19 vaccine will be similar to getting a flu shot.

“I think most of the time insurance pays for flu shots. But you still have to have insurance,” Tomlinson noted. “And still a small percentage of our population that is un-insured.”

Health leaders say that had the federal government not paid the bill for most of the pandemic, they’re not sure how they would have functioned.

They also say that COVID-19 will still cause problems for some in the community, especially for the immunocompromised.

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