The ending of the Public Health Emergency in the United States on May 11 means that the tracking of COVID-19 at the “community level” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will also come to an end, according to anonymous sources speaking with CNN. In short, COVID-19 will be included in a host of other respiratory viruses like RSV, parainfluenza and the flu that are tracked through participating hospitals in limited regions. 

The present flu surveillance network coverage, per the CDC, “includes more than 70 counties in 13 states that participate in the Emerging Infections Program and the Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Program—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, and Utah.” As the COVID-19 tracking comes to an end, it is expected that it will have similar monitoring, meaning the state of the pandemic will become utterly opaque.

CDC′s Roybal campus in Atlanta, Georgia. [Photo: James Gathany]

The “community level” tracking had been adopted last February 2022, on the wake of the massive BA.1 Omicron wave. It shifted the public health data collection from daily rates of infection to focus on number of hospitalizations and resources available to the local health systems. 

Overnight, maps glowing in red or magenta colors were transformed into pale green and yellow regardless of the rates of infections. Under these new threat guidelines, masks were no longer recommended, ushering in the process that has culminated to the ending of the public health emergency this month. 

At the time, the CDC was severely criticized by many public health specialists, who warned that it was undermining real-time data on the state of the pandemic and minimizing the risk it posed to communities everywhere across the country.  

The ending of the fraudulent “community level” tracking, so that COVID infections which are no longer being tracked in any meaningful manner, apparently means nothing to the public health agency. Only when a person contracts COVID-19 and develops severe disease and requires treatment as an in-patient admission to a hospital, only then is data collected at specific participating health systems and reported to the CDC, which in turn will update their anemic and circuitous webpage without any real guidance on what such data means for the public’s safety.

Throughout the pandemic, it has been repeated by almost every epidemiologist and public health expert that hospitalizations are a “lagging indicator” of community spread. Such information on the recent past offers no public health advantage for the population. It is tantamount to driving a hazardous road all the while looking in the rearview mirror for your bearings.

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