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CDC plans changes to COVID-19 reporting when public health emergency ends

Article

Authority to compile some numbers will expire May 11.

coronavirus covid-19 delta variant © Enteng stock.adobe.com

© Enteng stock.adobe.com

The end of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) will bring changes to data collection and tracking at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Vaccines, treatments, and testing will remain available once the PHE ends May 11, but the numbers will change because the CDC’s authority to collect some public health data will expire, the agency announced this month.

“We have the right data for this phase of COVID-19 that will allow us to understand what’s happening with the virus in America in real-time,” said a CDC summary about changes in store at the end of the PHE. “Simply put, while what we have going forward will be different, it will still allow CDC, local public health officials, and the members of the public to understand COVID-19 dynamics at the community level.”

What’s ending

COVID-19 case and death data will no longer be highlighted on CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker.

During the pandemic, states reported weekly case counts and death counts, but those figures have “become increasingly unreliable” as data collection has ceased or test results were not reported, according to CDC. The agency continues to get COVID-19 data through the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System, which regularly collects case figures from about 120 diseases.

After May 11, laboratories no longer will be required to report county-level test positivity data through the COVID-19 Electronic Reporting system.

Still going

CDC said some metrics will remain available:

  • COVID-19 hospital admissions. All hospitals are required to report data weekly through the end of April 2024.
  • COVID-19 deaths will be reported weekly by the CDC’s National Vital Statistics System (NVSS).
  • Emergency department visits with patients diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 test positivity will be reported through the National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System (NREVSS), a network of 450 labs that voluntarily submit data from across the country.
  • Wastewater and genomic surveillance.

More information

CDC published two papers about the changes coming to data collection and reporting. They summarized the pandemic’s effects on a large scale.

“Although COVID-19 no longer poses the societal emergency that it did when it first emerged in late 2019, COVID-19 remains an ongoing public health challenge,” said the report, “COVID-19 Surveillance After Expiration of the Public Health Emergency Declaration – United States, May 11, 2023.”

“By April 26, 2023, more than 104 million U.S. COVID-19 cases, 6 million related hospitalizations, and 1.1 million COVID-19–associated deaths were reported to CDC and summarized on CDC’s COVID Data Tracker,” the paper said. “COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death during 2020 and 2021 and the fourth leading cause during 2022.”

Across the nation, about 675 million COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered, including 55 million updated bivalent booster doses, with U.S. infection- and vaccine-induced population immunity reaching 95% by December 2021.

“As a result, rates of COVID-19–associated hospitalizations and deaths have declined substantially since March 2022,” the paper said.

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