Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live


San Diego organizations prepare for end of COVID public health emergency

It's been a long three years, but the World Health Organization has declared an end to the global COVID-19 public health emergency. The U.S. government is set to follow suit next week.

San Diego’s La Maestra Community Health Centers was celebrating those milestones and their 33rd anniversary, in-person in City Heights on Friday.

“We’re transitioning from many of our visits happening virtually, opening our doors, and doing a lot of expansion in the community so there's an increase of access,” said the organization’s Chief Community Development Programs Officer
Cynthia Kaser.


The U.S. is expected on May 11 to end the national COVID-19 public health emergency.

That means the sunsetting of some health coverage and cost savings put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kaser said they're trying to inform people through community outreach.

“There's more changes that are happening with the emergency Medi-Cal and different campaigns are underway to get the message out to our patients and our community on the renewal so they can maintain coverage,” Kaser said.

But Californians will have more time to adjust to those changes.


State law extends the federal public health emergency requirements by six months, so health plans will continue covering COVID-19 testing, vaccines and therapies like paxlovid and monoclonal antibodies from any licensed provider free of charge until Nov. 11, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Californians will also be able to access up to eight over-the-counter COVID-19 tests per month covered by their health insurance provider for the next six months.

Plus, there are new requirements for patients on controlled substances. They will no longer be able to only use telehealth to get their prescriptions refilled.

“This is really a situation where if you're on Medicare and you've been using these telehealth flexibilities, which a lot of people have, you're going to want to talk to your doctor and see what changes are happening,” said Louise Norris, a health policy analyst with

Even though the COVID-19 emergency is almost over, UC San Diego Infectious Disease Specialist Francesca Torriani said the next pandemic is just a question of time.

She said the United States and the world needs to learn from the mistakes it made to not repeat the past.

Her advice:

“Strengthening public health, the public health response, the public health ability to screen for these diseases and to respond to a threat — and mitigate very fast to a threat,” Torriani said.

Corrected: May 11, 2023 at 6:18 PM PDT
EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that COVID-19 tests and vaccines would no longer be available for free as of May 11; in California, they are available until Nov. 11. The previous version also said no telehealth visits would be allowed for prescriptions of controlled substances; providers will be able to give initial prescriptions for those medications after a telehealth visit with someone they have not examined, but an in-person follow-up will be required within 30 days to continue receiving the medication. KPBS regrets the errors.
KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.