CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — As area hospitals ease their masking restrictions in medical centers and offices, it marks a sign of a milestone that is on the way — the federal Public Health Emergency for COVID-19 is coming to an end. 

The order, which is set to expire May 11, covers more than just masks, though. It’s been in place since January 2020.

Health officials said the orders expiring focus on things both directly and indirectly associated with the pandemic. On the direct front, COVID care costs could be passed onto patients.   

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a restriction on passing those costs down to patients needing care related to the virus. That will likely change once the order ends. 

Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Dr. Raynard Washington.

“The requirement that you cannot cost-share with your members is going to be lifted,” said Dr. Raynard Washington, Mecklenburg County’s health director.  “That means insurance could shift the cost related to either care or testing or treatment to their patients.” 

Washington noted the only exceptions will be for those uninsured or underinsured. 

Additionally, monitoring for COVID-19 will effectively go back to states and counties, which have been under federal rules for monitoring and reporting since 2020. 

On the indirect front, rules for nursing home staff training will become stricter.  They were loosened in 2020 in an effort to bolster staff at the facilities. 

Additionally, a program that allowed for easier access to medication used for opioid addiction will also be ending. 

Washington said that the county will still be providing testing and vaccines to those who need it at little to no cost after May 11, but with a caveat: 

“I think the question will be where the resources will come from,” he said. 

Washington also noted that federal stockpiles of the COVID-19 vaccine and boosters additionally mean that shots will still be provided for free.