"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

With COVID tracking waning, are we letting our guard down too soon?

April 11, 2023 – The 30-second industrial, a part of the Campaign “We can do it”shows strange people going about their lives after which reminds them: “Because COVID is still out there and so are you”, then possibly it’s time Your vaccine.

Yet in real life, the message that Covid-19 continues to be a serious problem is muted, if not absent, for a lot of. Many data collection sources — each federal and otherwise — are not any longer reporting the variety of Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths as often.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stopped updating its public COVID data page in February and as an alternative forwards all requests to the CDC, which in turn only updates weekly as an alternative of each day. since last 12 months.

Non-governmental sources similar to John Hopkins University, has stopped reporting Pandemic data in March, The New York Times Also finished his COVID data collection project last month and noted that “the comprehensive real-time reporting that The times In the future, we will have to rely on weekly reporting of CDC data.

Along with the tracking sites, mask requirements and social distancing rules have largely disappeared. President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan bill on Monday that ended the national emergency for COVID. While some programs will remain in place for now, such as free vaccines, treatments and testing, these too will be eliminated when the federal health emergency ends on May 11. HHS has already announced its Transition roadmap.

Meanwhile, many Americans are still undecided about the pandemic. Gallup poll from March shows About half of the American public thinks it's over, and about half thinks otherwise.

Are we closing shop too soon because of COVID-19 or is it time? Not surprisingly, experts disagree. Some say the pandemic is now endemic – which broadly means that the virus and its spread in certain regions are predictable and stable – and that it is crucial to catch up on health needs neglected during the pandemic, such as screenings and other vaccinations.

Others believe that the time has not come yet. They say we let our guard down too soon and should not ignore the possibility of another strong variant – or pandemic. Surveillance must continue, not weaken, but improve.

Time to move on?

In its transition roadmap released in February, HHS notes that the number of daily reported COVID cases has declined by over 90% compared to the peak of the omicron surge in late January 2022; the number of deaths has declined by over 80%; and the number of new hospitalizations due to COVID has declined by nearly 80%.

“It’s time to move on,” says Ali Mokdad, PhD, professor and chief policy officer for population health on the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation on the University of Washington.

“Many people delayed many medical procedures during the peak of COVID because they were afraid,” he said, explaining that elective surgeries had been postponed, prenatal care had declined, as had blood pressure and diabetes screenings.

His institute followed the COVID forecasts every week but stopped December.

As for emerging variants, “we haven't seen a variant that scares us since Omicron” in November 2021, said Mokdad, who agrees that COVID is now endemic. The subvariants that followed are very similar, and the present vaccines work.

“We can continue, but we must not neglect the genetic sequencing of the virus,” he said. This is the one method to quickly discover recent variants.

If a brand new variant of concern does emerge, Mokdad said, certain locations and resources would have the ability to reply quickly, while others wouldn't have the ability to. Overall, nevertheless, the U.S. is now in a a lot better position.

Amesh Adalja, MD, a senior scientist on the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, also believes that the pandemic phase is behind us

“This cannot be an emergency in the long term,” he said. “Just because something is not a pandemic, [anymore] does not mean that all related activities will be discontinued.”

It is extremely unlikely that COVID will overwhelm hospitals again, and that was the fundamental reason for the emergency declaration, he said.

“It’s not all or nothing – the collapse of COVID-related [monitoring] “The inclusion of these activities in routine surveillance, which is also done for other infectious diseases, should be seen as a success in containing the virus,” he said.

Not yet endemic

“An early closure of operations could come as a surprise to us,” says Dr. Rajendram Rajnarayanan, associate dean for research and associate professor on the College of Osteopathic Medicine on the New York Institute of Technology at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

Large laboratories have already closed or reduced their capability as demand for tests has fallen, he said, and lots of centers that offered community testing have also been closed. In addition, the outcomes of home tests are sometimes not reported.

Continuous surveillance is vital, he said. “You have to maintain a baseline level of sequencing for new variants,” he said. “Currently, the variant that is leading the world is XBB.1.16.”

This is a sub-variant of the omicron virus that the World Health Organization is currently monitoring, in line with a Press briefing on March 29. There are about 800 sequences of it from 22 countries, mostly India, and the film has been in circulation for several months.

Rajnarayanan said he was not overly concerned about this variant, but surveillance must proceed. His own breakdown of XBB.1.16 found the subvariant in 27 countries, including the United States, on April 10.

Ideally, Rajnarayanan suggests 4 areas to give attention to in the long run:

  • Active, random monitoring for brand new variants, especially in hotspots
  • Surveillance in hospitals and long-term care, especially in community settings where people can spread the virus more easily
  • Traveler monitoring, now at seven US airportsin line with CDC
  • Monitoring animals similar to mink and deer, as these animals can't only carry the virus, however the virus may also mutate within the animals, which may then be transmitted to humans

With less testing, basic surveillance of recent variants has declined. The other three areas of surveillance also should be improved as reporting is usually delayed, he said.

Continuous monitoring is crucial, agreed Dr. Katelyn Jetelina, an epidemiologist and data scientist who publishes a newsletter: Your local epidemiologist, Latest developments on COVID and other urgent health issues.

“It's a bit ironic to have a date for the end of a public health emergency; viruses don't care about calendars,” said Jetelina, who can also be director of population health evaluation on the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute.. “COVID-19 will still be here, it will still mutate,” she said, and it can still cause suffering to those affected. “What I worry most about is our ability to track the virus. It's not clear what surveillance we will still have in the States and around the world.”

In terms of surveillance, she called wastewater surveillance “the easiest target to achieve,” since it “is not based on biased testing and has the potential to help with other outbreaks as well.” Data on hospitalizations can also be critical, she said, because this information forms the idea for public health decisions about updated vaccines and other protective measures.

While Jetelina hopes that in the future COVID will likely be widely considered endemic and may have predictable seasonal patterns, “I don't think we're there yet. We have to continue to face this virus with humility; at least that's what I will continue to do.”

Rajnarayanan agreed that the pandemic has not yet reached the endemic stage, although the situation has improved significantly. “Our vaccines still protect us from severe disease and hospitalization, and [the antiviral drug] Paxlovid is a great tool that works.”

Keep track

While some data tracking has been eliminated, not all has been and won't be. CDCas mentioned, continues to report weekly cases, deaths and a each day average of recent hospitalizations. The World Health Organization dashboard tracks deaths, cases and vaccine doses worldwide.

In March Updated its working definitions and tracking system for SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern and interest, with the aim of independently assessing sublineages and more clearly classifying recent variants if crucial.

Nevertheless, the WHO considering quitting its declaration of COVID as a global health emergency Worry sometime this 12 months.

Some publicly traded corporations remain vigilant. Drugstore chain Walgreens said it plans to COVID-19 Indexwhich was launched in January 2022.

“Data on the spread of variants is important to our understanding of virus transmission, and as new variants emerge, it will be critical to continue to rapidly track this information to predict which communities are most at risk,” Anita Patel, PharmD, vp of pharmacy services development at Walgreens, said in an announcement.

The data also underscores the importance of vaccinations and testing in stopping the spread of COVID-19, she said.