The Biden Administration has decided to extend the public emergency in the United States for another three months until at least October 13.
Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, made the announcement on Friday. The decision came in the wake of a rise in positive cases of the BA.5 variant of the COVID-19 virus.
“The Public Health Emergency declaration continues to provide us with tools and authorities needed to respond to the highly transmissible COVID-19 subvariants that are currently circulating around the country,” a Biden administration official told CNN. “The PHE provides essential capabilities and flexibilities to hospitals to better care for patients, particularly if we were to see a significant increase in hospitalizations in the coming weeks.”
In some respects, it sounds like the Public Health Emergency extension is a formality that allows the government to have more leeway in implementing further measures.
“Without the PHE in place, we would be limited in our ability to provide broad and equitable access to lifesaving treatments through our Test to Treat initiative, for example, which relies on flexibility for telehealth and operations,” the official told CNN. “Not renewing the PHE would leave us with fewer tools to respond and mean more Americans would get severely ill and end up in the hospital.”
But whether this new iteration of the virus plays havoc with the travel sector again, as it did for virtually all of 2020 and much of 2021, remains to be seen.
“From what I can tell here, nobody is really listening to this President and administration,” Tyson Wharton, of Sioux Empire Travel, told TravelPulse.
Wharton said it’s likely that most people have had their fill over COVID-19 after more than two years.
“I doubt half the people even know about (the extension of the public health emergency),” he said “So I don’t think that will make a difference for my clients’ travel plans. What is really slowing things down is the inflation pricing. I have seen more people put off travel because of $1,000 cabin tickets than are worried about COVID.”
High prices are seemingly everywhere, but according to Allianz Partners USA’s 14th Annual Vacation Confidence Index, a sizeable amount of people are still planning on traveling despite the soaring costs.
COVID-19 may not be the biggest concern among travelers these days, but it’s still something on the list of worries for many travelers out there.
Some cities, like Los Angeles, are even contemplating bringing back indoor mask mandates.
Extending the public emergency may not have a massive impact on travel here in 2022, but it does show that COVID-19 will continue to play a role in decision-making, even if it is a small one.
Will it set the travel industry back even further?
That remains to be seen, but for now, it doesn’t appear it will significantly hinder the industry’s path to recovery. If testing requirements to enter the country or mask mandates on public transportation return, then the industry is more likely to see a step backward in its efforts to recover.
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