COVID emergency is over, but Ohioans can still get free COVID tests and vaccines for now
The federal government is ending its COVID-19 public health emergency, and that means that many of the policies and perks put in place during the past three years will go away.
But in Ohio, free tests and vaccines will still be available for now.
Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said the state is better off now than it's been in the past three years.
“Case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths have been declining since the start of the year and now, we are at some of our lowest levels since the pandemic began," Vanderhoff said.
Vanderhoff said while that's good news, Ohioans shouldn't become complacent about the virus.
“The reality is that people are still getting sick and tragically the lives of 40 to 50 Ohioans are still claimed by this virus every week," Vanderhoff said.
Vanderhoff said Ohioans 60 years old or older should consider getting a bivalent COVID vaccine booster. And because Ohio has a sizable supply of the vaccines, Vanderhoff said they will remain free of charge for now.
Once that supply runs out, Medicaid patients will be able to get free vaccinations through Sept. 30, 2024. And Medicare patients won't be charged for COVID vaccines. They will be covered under Medicare Part B.
The federal government will stop sending free COVID tests straight to homes. But, like vaccines, Vanderhoff said Ohio has maintained a good supply of tests so those will be available free to Ohioans at local health departments for now.
Free tests may still be available through pharmacies in some cases. Private insurers are no longer required to pay for eight home tests per month.
One big change is out-of-pocket charges for COVID treatments from private insurers. Many Ohioans with private insurance may find therapeutics or treatments are no longer provided without a copay or deductible. Right now, the Ohio Department of Health has a supply of therapeutic treatments available to help those who can't afford them.
The telehealth services that became popular during the pandemic will also be available without restrictions that existed before the pandemic.
One thing that will look different is Ohio's COVID-19 dashboard. Vanderhoff said the federal government 's data reporting requirements have expired, so some information provided before won't be available. But he said the state will continue to track COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
"Rest assured that throughout this transition, the Ohio Department of Health will continue to monitor the impact here in Ohio and will work with our partners to develop strategies to protect the health of Ohioans," Vanderhoff said.
To find more information on COVID-19 data or services available, Ohioans should access the state's website at coronavirus.ohio.gov.