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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — COVID-19 is no longer a global emergency, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Friday, though the state of emergency in Rhode Island will stay in place a bit longer.
The McKee administration has extended the public health emergency until Thursday, May 11, to match when it will be dropped by the federal government.
While WHO’s announcement can be seen as a symbolic end of the pandemic, health officials warn that COVID-19 remains a threat. Cases will still pop up and new variants could still emerge.
To that end, the R.I. Department of Health said their guidance will remain the same: keep up to date with vaccinations, stay home if you’re sick, and get tested if you’ve been exposed or have symptoms.
The end of the public health emergency will not affect access to the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Health Department. Rhode Islanders can still get a shot at no cost from their health care provider or a pharmacy.
The Health Department said households can still get free kits from the federal government while supplies last.
People experiencing COVID-19 symptoms can also get tested for free at community clinics around the state. The state also offers “test to treat” sites where those who are positive and eligible can get a prescription for medication like Paxlovid.
Health officials noted, however, that once the federal public health emergency ends, private insurance providers and Medicare will no longer be required to cover self-tests. For Medicaid recipients, self-tests will be covered at no out-of-pocket cost through September 2024.
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