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Saskia v. Popescu, PhD, MPH, MA, CIC, gives the latest on COVID-19, including the end of the Public Health Emergency, and Mpox.
COVID-19 Emergency Status Ends – US and Globally
We’re officially–on a federal and public health level–done with the emergency aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal Public Health Emergency (PHE) that was declared for COVID-19 has officially expired as of May 11, 2023. This decision is based on several factors, including case counts and vaccination levels, but also efforts on a federal level to move away from the acute state of a pandemic. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “At the end of the COVID-19 PHE on May 11, Americans will continue to be able to access COVID-19 vaccines at no cost, just as they have during the COVID-19 PHE, due to the requirements of the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program Provider Agreement, people will also continue to be able to access COVID-19 treatments just as they have during the COVID-19 PHE.”
The removal of the PHE declaration will impact certain Medicare/Medicaid waivers, coverage for COVID-19 testing in many ways, and data. This is a big piece as the CDC is scaling down its COVID-19 data collection, analytics, and publication levels. This will mean that community-level data is solely on the shoulders of local public health departments, and various indicators used at a national level will no longer be published.
Similarly, the World Health Organization (WHO) has also removed the PHEIC(Public Health Emergency of International Concern) declaration for COVID-19. “During a press conference the next day, Tedros emphasized that COVID-19 remains a global health threat and that the new status doesn’t mean that countries can let down their guard. ‘It is time for countries to transition from emergency mode to managing COVID-19 alongside other infectious diseases,’ he said.
This decision wasn’t surprising as PHEIC declarations signify extraordinary events indicating an international risk for disease spread. In many ways, delaying this choice may limit the strength of a PHEIC declaration as most countries have removed COVID-19 measures. Despite ongoing cases and COVID-19 as the top cause of death, attention–both publicly and politically–has been wanted. Now, it’s time for hospitals and IPC programs to determine how they’ll approach COVID-19 as another one of the infectious diseases we live with and require a response in a sustainable measure. The CDC updated its COVID infection prevention resources, which you can find here. Lastly, the Director of the CDC, Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, has announced she will be stepping down from the position effective late June.
Concerning Cases of Mpox
We haven’t heard of mpox (formally, monkeypox) lately, but new cases in Chicago are causing concern. Of the 14 new cases since mid-April, half are in vaccinated individuals. “Two states have added more than a dozen infections to their tallies: 31 in Texas and 15 in Illinois. More cases have also been reported in California, Louisiana, New York, Alabama, Florida, and Oregon. However, not all these additional cases were actually diagnosed over the past 2 weeks. ‘At least 17 of the newly reported cases are from 2022, and 3 are from January and February of this year,’ Lara Anton, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said in an email."
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