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Sound Health is a recurring series that airs twice each month on WGLT's Sound Ideas program.Support for Sound Health comes from Carle Health, bringing care, coverage, support, healthcare research and education to central Illinois and beyond.

How vaccine and testing access may change in McLean County as the emergency declaration ends

COVID testing kits
David Dermer/AP
FR171035 AP
FILE - A healthcare worker grabs two at-home COVID-19 test kits to be handed out during a distribution event.

Thursday is the last day the U.S. will be in a public health emergency for COVID-19.

COVID cases have not stopped, but they have dropped considerably. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, all 102 Illinois counties have low community spread.

In this edition of Sound Health, McLean County Health Department administrator Jessica McKnight explains what the end of the public emergency means how it might impact vaccinations and testing.

McKnight said access to vaccines and COVID tests likely won't change much in the short term.

Jessica McKnight
Teresa Klokkenga
Jessica McKnight

“Vaccines, testing, treatment, all of that should still be available, just integrated into our normal healthcare system as we see it for other illnesses,” McKnight said.

COVID vaccines come from the federal government. McKnight said if private companies take over vaccines, programs are available to cover the cost for uninsured or underinsured and insurance would likely be similar to cover vaccinations.

COVID testing

Private insurers will no longer be required to cover the cost of at-home COVID tests. McKnight said it remains to be seen how long insurance companies will continue to cover the cost of those tests.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois and Health Alliance will no longer cover those tests, according to Illinois Newsroom.

Medicaid will continue to pay for at-home tests until September 2024. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has established a program to cover testing costsat select pharmacies.

Starting Thursday, the CDC no longer has access to some COVID surveillance data. That could slow detection of an outbreak.

McKnight said state and local health officials will still be able to track COVID spread through new cases and wastewater surveillance.

"The data may look a little different that the CDC has access to, but we will still have access to what is happening in the community,” McKnight said.

Now that the COVID health emergency is expiring, more than 100,000 Illinoisans could lose Medicaid coverage if they don't verify their income status with the state by June 1.

More than 400 McLean County residents have died of COVID since the start of the pandemic. The statewide death toll is nearly 37,000.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.