The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will stop tracking community levels of COVID-19 and the percentage of positive test results after the end of the public health emergency on May 11. The emergency designation had allowed the CDC to demand data from state officials, but the new approach will rely on the National Vital Statistics System, which lags behind other types of surveillance by 2-3 weeks. The agency will also reduce the data hospitals must report, including the number of cases and patient age, sex, and race. However, the CDC will continue to monitor overall COVID-19 hospitalizations and intensive care admissions. Dr. Nirav Shah, the agency’s principal deputy director, stated that the CDC would still have a clear picture of COVID-19 trends. The agency will continue to fund pharmacy-based testing for the uninsured and monitor pathogens in wastewater and COVID-19 variants, including those infecting travelers, albeit with reduced frequency of reporting. Experts expressed concern that the data the CDC plans to collect will not provide enough actionable information at the state and local level. Sam Scarpino, a public health expert at Northeastern University, noted that state and local health officials will have to make decisions based on limited data. The CDC cannot compel states to share data, but it can rely on its own sentinel network, Covid-Net, which includes information on hospitalizations in 13 states, representing about 10% of the population. The CDC will also continue to track overall COVID-19 hospitalizations and intensive care admissions. Some experts had worried that uninsured Americans would lose access to free COVID-19 tests once the emergency ends. However, the CDC said it would continue to fund pharmacy-based testing for the uninsured.
C.D.C. to reduce Covid tracking efforts