On Thursday, the CDC revamped its COVID-19 dashboard in response to changing data availability with the end of the federal public health emergency. The new dashboard downplays continued COVID-19 risk across the U.S., by prioritizing hospitalizations and deaths over other metrics.
We’re now less than one week out from May 11, when the federal public health emergency (or PHE) for COVID-19 will end. While this change doesn’t actually signify that COVID-19 is no longer worth worrying about, it marks a major shift in how U.S. governments will respond to the ongoing pandemic, including how the disease is tracked and what public services are available. Here’s all the key info you should know about this, in one place.
The national COVID-19 plateau persists. Cases, new hospitalizations, and wastewater surveillance all indicate slight declines (but persistent disease spread) across the country. New variants are on the rise, but have yet to noticeably change these trends.
A lot of healthcare organizations have ended mask mandates in recent months, many of them citing guidance changes at state or local levels. This is likely another case of health agencies and organizations making changes that are, in fact, very dangerous for their patients.
The trend continues: COVID-19 spread is still on the decline across the U.S., but it’s a slow decline. These updates are getting pretty repetitive to write, as we’ve been seeing this pattern since late January—which, honestly, I’m taking as a good sign.
It’s now undeniable that Thanksgiving led to a jump in COVID-19 spread: officially-reported cases went up 50% this past week compared to the week of the holiday, following the trend that we first saw in wastewater data. Hospital admissions for COVID-19 also continue to go up.
COVID-19 is still a public health emergency. At the moment, this is true according to both the general definition of this term and official declarations by the federal government. But the latter could change in the coming months, likely leading to more fragmentation in U.S. COVID-19 data.
Last summer and fall, Idaho was completely overrun by the Delta variant. State leaders implemented crisis standards of care, a practice allowing hospitals to conserve their limited resources when they are becoming overwhelmed. All hospitals in Idaho were in crisis standards for weeks, with the northern Panhandle region remaining in this crisis mode for over 100 days.
This past Friday, the CDC announced a major shift to its guidance for determining COVID-19 safety measures based on county-level community metrics. The new guidance is intended to replace COVID-19 thresholds that the agency developed last summer, during the Delta wave; here, the CDC is promoting a shift from using cases and test positivity for local decision-making to using metrics tied directly to the healthcare system.