AUGUSTA, GA. (WJBF) – Thursday, May 11 officially ends the Covid-19 emergency. This declaration was made by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. While the emergency ends, concerns over what’s next begins.

Just three years ago, the world was put on pause, but fast forward to today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced May 11th the end for COVID-19 emergency measures.

“This does mark the end of the declaration of the acute emergent federal support for this pandemic. It doesn’t mean that the pandemic is over, covid continues to be a leading cause of death in the United States,” District Health Director Dr. Lee Merchen said.

Dr. Lee Merchen is the District Health Director for the Georgia Department of Health. 

Despite the end of Covid-19 emergency status. Dr. Merchen says the vaccine is still encouraged. 

“We still have a large surplus of federally supported vaccines, so most people can easily still get a free covid vaccine.”

Both free vaccines and testing are still available. 

“We also still have drive-thru testing being offered, we still have a lot of at-home kits still people have, and the biggest thing that continues to be free is the prescription Paxlovid, for people who do have covid, to mitigate symptoms and shorten duration of illness,” Dr. Merchen said.

Dr. Lee Merchen tells me there are, however, somethings you should be on the lookout for.

“I would keep our eyes open for a new guideline from the CDC about that booster– that bivalent vaccine booster– we’re currently recommending it for people over the age of 65 and remember there’s an emergency use authorization for physicians and providers at their discretion to go ahead and boost individuals who may be at increased risk.” 

And at the end of the day, Dr. Merchen is hopeful for a healthier future.

“I think the declaration is a positive sign. I think it means that, for three years, this country and the world has endured a quite historical pandemic– globally numbers are very far down– but I do hope people appreciate their own personal responsibility in helping mitigate this in our small corner of the world,” Dr. Merchen said.

Health Department leaders say access to free covid vaccines are still available at the local health department and pharmacies.