COVID expert reflects on end of COVID-19 public health emergency 

In This Story

People Mentioned in This Story

Professor in the College of Public Health Amira Roess guided individuals and organizations throughout the pandemic and reflects on what the end of the emergency status means for the health care system.

Photo of Amira Roess

On May 11, 2023, the U.S. COVID-19 Public Health Emergency ended. Throughout the pandemic, Professor in Mason’s College of Public Health Amira Roess offered advice on how to stay safe and healthy during the ever-moving health guidelines. Now, Roess reflects on the end of the public health emergency: 

Q: What is the state of COVID-related health care?

Though it’s good that we are able to live our lives without lockdowns and wearing masks 100% of the time, Americans are still dying each day of COVID and there are lasting negative effects on individuals and our health system. 

Q: How would you rate the state of public health in the U.S. now?

Prior to the pandemic, our public health system was in a dire state. Despite the pandemic highlighting the importance of a timely and robust public health system, the U.S. system continues to function at a subpar level.

Q: What areas are most critical to address?

Our country was in the midst of a mental health emergency prior to the pandemic and the pandemic has exacerbated this. Yet, resources are still not allocated at sufficient levels to address this crisis nor to address the drug abuse problem that is devastating so many communities in our country. What’s worse is that we are taking resources away from public health as we officially end the pandemic emergency without establishing a serious and thoughtful long-term investment in our public health infrastructure. 

Q: How have local public health departments been affected?

Local public health departments are critical for protecting the public's health and to responding to mental health and other crises. Yet, they have been seriously underfunded since well before the pandemic. The pandemic was a missed opportunity to build up the public health system. For more than a year now, we have seen temporary COVID-related jobs go away and public health systems go back to being under-resourced and underfunded with more crises to respond to then is manageable.  

We are watching hundreds of Americans die from drug overdoses and mental health conditions each day and immediate projections are that more and more Americans will be affected by this. Yet, we haven't been able to implement effective interventions or policies to address this. 

Q: What positive outcomes do you see? 

What is promising to see is that young adults don't seem willing to accept the lack of resources for public health. I am hopeful that under their coming leadership things will change.