© 2023 WFSU Public Media
WFSU News · Tallahassee · Panama City · Thomasville
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

End of COVID Public Health Emergency brings uncertainty for immunocompromised people

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Today marks the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency in the U.S. It's a milestone that really feels symbolic in some ways.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Many pandemic precautions and provisions ended a while ago in most public spaces if they were ever in place to begin with. And as White House COVID coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha told me this week...

ASHISH JHA: A country can't be in emergency mode forever.

KELLY: Still, he and other experts stress this point.

VIVIAN CHUNG: I hope that people will understand that the emergency over doesn't mean the virus just, like, disappear on the 11.

PFEIFFER: That's Vivian Chung, a pediatrician and research scientist from Bethesda, Md. She's at much higher risk for serious COVID symptoms or complications because she takes medication for a rare genetic condition that suppresses her immune system.

KELLY: And she is worried about what the end of COVID emergency precautions could mean for her and other immunocompromised patients.

CHUNG: On one hand, we're glad the case counts are coming down. But in some way, we're even less protected.

KELLY: And then there's the social pressure to act as if the pandemic is completely behind us. Chung says more and more, she is the only one wearing a mask in most settings.

CHUNG: I have people walk up to me just on the street to say, oh, don't you know that COVID is over?

KELLY: Some 7 million people in the U.S are immunocompromised. Another 7 million globally have died from COVID-19.

PFEIFFER: Chung says since the pandemic's onset...

CHUNG: I still haven't taken a long flight. I have been to an indoor dining once. I kind of - I would go into grocery stores at, like, 6 in the morning.

PFEIFFER: But Chung says other pandemic-era changes, like the increase in remote work, have made life more inclusive for her and others.

CHUNG: As a community of people with disability, we're still being marginalized. But I think the - that as that margin widens, in some way, that there is more acceptance.

PFEIFFER: An acceptance that she hopes will mark a permanent cultural shift, one that will keep the world safer for vulnerable populations long after the public health emergency is over. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kai McNamee
Ashley Brown is a senior editor for All Things Considered.