With the expiration of a key federal declaration Thursday, the U.S. has moved into a new stage of the coronavirus pandemic, and health officials across the country, including in Pennsylvania, now have fewer reporting requirements.
As announced in January, the federal government allowed the national public health emergency declaration to expire May 11, shifting access to coverage for tests, vaccines and more. President Joe Biden previously ended the national emergency declaration.
In accordance with the changes, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has said it will have less “comprehensive” data available on the virus in the commonwealth.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also ceased many of its reporting measures. Its COVID-19 community levels were discontinued as of Thursday, though the agency said it will continue to report hospitalizations, emergency department visits and deaths in the U.S. from the novel coronavirus.
Some aggregate data and community transmission information has also been discontinued.
Remaining CDC data, updated Thursday, show declining deaths and hospitalizations nationwide in the last week, and a low 17% vaccination rate for the bivalent shot.
What do we know about COVID-19 in Pennsylvania this week
Despite the changes, the Pennsylvania Department of Health updated its COVID dashboard Wednesday.
It is unclear if the dashboard will be updated moving forward, but statewide, the agency reports 1,911 new cases of COVID-19 from May 3 to 9. That’s an uptick from the prior week, when the department of health reported 1,027 cases. These counts do not include at-home test kits and other positives not reported to the state.
During the latest seven-day period, virus deaths fell to five, according to the dashboard – bringing Pennsylvania’s death toll to 51,047 as of May 10.
As for hospitalizations, the statewide census dropped this week from 259 to 251, with 27 patients in adult intensive care units and 18 on ventilators.
In its message about altered data reporting, the state department reminded the public the expiration of the declarations does not signal the virus was no longer a threat.
“The expiration of the federal Public Health Emergency (PHE) declaration does not mean the virus is gone,” the agency’s website reads. “The best defense against COVID-19 remains getting vaccinated and continuing basic health and hygiene practices, like handwashing, staying home when sick and avoiding contact with people who have suspected or confirmed COVID-19.”
In Centre County, Mount Nittany Health announced Friday it would reduce the information it was relaying about the pandemic.
“As of May 11, the Public Health Emergency declaration related to the COVID-19 pandemic has ended as a result of new federal policies, and the CDC will no longer be publishing Community Transmission level data for SARS-CoV-2,” the hospital said in a statement. “As a result, Mount Nittany Health will no longer be routinely communicating Community Transmission levels, and we will convey COVID-19 information in much the same way that we now handle communications about other transmittable diseases, such as influenza.”
For the time being, the COVID-19 vaccine remains free for most Americans. To find a shot near you, visit vaccines.gov.