The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reportedly plans to stop tracking the spread of Covid-19 on the community level across the country, signalling what could be the federal government’s readiness to reconsider priorities in its approach to the pandemic despite the World Health Organization’s declaration that it is still ongoing.

Instead of using its colour-coded Covid-19 tracking system that focuses on the spread of the virus by counties, the CDC will pivot its tracking focus mostly to hospitalisation rates, CNN first reported on Friday.

“We’re not going to lose complete surveillance, but we will lose that hyperlocal sensitivity to it perhaps,” a source familiar with the CDC’s plans told CNN.

Although the timing has not yet been finalised, the source said that the CDC could announce the end of its community-level tracking as early as next week. The Biden White House announced in January that the country’s Covid-19 public health emergency is set to expire on 11 May.

The CDC’s community-level tracking system was initially adopted last year in February and currently operates on a Covid-19 transmission metric of low-medium-high.

Once the public health emergency declaration expires next month, the federal government will no longer have the authority to mandate labs to report Covid-19 testing data. Additionally, despite Covid-19 being a reportable condition, the frequency of doctors reporting cases to public health officials may change, CNN reports.

“Some of the metrics simply cannot be sustained because of the change in data reporting,” the source told CNN.

In a statement to NBC, a CDC spokesperson said that as the public health emergency winds down, the centers “will no longer get the same data”.

“We are working to update the measure used to convey the risk of Covid-19 in communities based on data that will be available,” the spokesperson added. “Our priority remains providing the information necessary to protect the nation’s public health.”

Within the last several months, the number of Covid-19 cases across the country has become increasingly difficult to track, especially as many individuals switch to home testing, the results of which could mean unreported infections.

As of 13 April, nearly 97% of counties, districts or territories across the US have been categorised as having a low Covid-19 community level, according to CDC data. Meanwhile, 2.5% are at a medium community level and 0.5% are at a high community level.


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