C.D.C. to Scale Back Covid Tracking Efforts
Why it matters: Covid still kills over 1,000 people every week
Even though it’s usually the season for respiratory diseases to lull, and a strong vaccine is available, the coronavirus has infected many Americans, killing at least 1,000 each week.
Northeastern University public health expert Sam Scarpino said the data the CDC plans to continue collecting does not provide enough actionable information at the state and local levels.
As with other pathogens such as influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, state and local health officials must make decisions based on limited data, he said.
“CDC is shuffling Covid into the infectious disease deck that we’re comfortable with,” Dr. Scarpino said. “1,000 deaths in a week is unacceptable.”
Background: Most of the changes were expected
The Biden administration signaled in January that the public health emergency would expire on May 11, giving health officials time to plan changes. The emergency designation gave Americans access to free tests, treatments, and vaccines, and allowed the CDC to request health data from state agencies.
Many of them are expected to change. Collecting and reporting Covid data to the CDC takes time and effort for many states and local governments. And some states have already stopped, limiting efforts to track the spread of the virus.
Some states have their own laws that prohibit sharing data with the CDC unless there is an emergency.
“The reality is that the CDC has no choice but to scale back its surveillance efforts,” said Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician and associate dean at the Brown School of Public Health. .
The data available after the emergency is over “certainly not as much as we need”, she said.
Next Step: Simplified Monitoring
CDC can’t force states to share data, but it can rely on its own sentinel network, Covid-Net, which contains information about hospitalizations in 13 states, representing about 10% of the population. Similar networks are used to track influenza.
Some experts worried that uninsured Americans would lose access to free coronavirus tests once the emergency ended. However, the CDC said it would continue to fund pharmacy-based testing for the uninsured.
Authorities continue to monitor pathogens in wastewater and track coronavirus variants, including those that infect travelers. However, the agency will reduce the frequency of variant reporting from weekly to biweekly and suspend state-level information on variant spread.