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COVID-19 emergency ends

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The COVID-19 emergency is over, but the pandemic continues. That was the overarching message from Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, director of the Ohio Department of Health during an online press conference Thursday, May 11.

While the federal health emergency expired effective May 11, that “does not mean COVID is over or no longer a public health concern,” Vanderhoff said.

The end of the federal health emergency came a week after the World Health Organization announced that COVID-19 no longer posed a global health emergency.

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Although Vanderhoff cautioned that the virus is still with us, noting that 40–50 Ohioans continue to die each week from COVID-related illness, the end of the federal emergency brings a variety of changes in monitoring and care at the federal and state levels.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, no longer requires the reporting of new case numbers, and its weekly community transmission level designations of “low,” “medium” or “high” are no long based on a combination of new cases, new hospitalizations and COVID-related bed numbers, but rather simply the number of new hospitalizations in a county. According to the CDC’s latest assessment, Greene County is rated “low.”

Vanderhoff said that Ohio’s data reporting will eventually change as well, but remains the same for now. According to the most recently available reports from the ODH, released May 11, Greene County had 45 new cases for the week of May 4–10, compared to 31 the week before, with two of those in the 45387 ZIP code. The same time period also saw two new hospitalizations and one death in the county. The total death count in Greene County since the start of the pandemic is 549.

Tracking case numbers had become increasingly difficult as the severity of illness levels decreased and more people who became ill or tested positive with a home kit didn’t complete a lab test or seek medical attention, and thus went uncounted by health officials.

Vanderhoff noted that wastewater testing across the state, implemented since the start of the pandemic, will serve as an indicator of a possible surge in illness.

Perhaps the main effect of the federal emergency’s end is the transition of testing, vaccinations and treatments to a more “traditional health care mode,” Vanderhoff said.

Free at-home testing kits are no longer available through the federal government’s postal program. Ohio has accumulated a stockpile of home tests, however, according to Vanderhoff, and they will remain available through local health departments, pharmacies and medical offices.

Likewise, vaccines will not be provided through federal programs, but again, “Ohio has a sizable number” in reserve, Vanderhoff said. Most insurance providers should also cover vaccinations as “preventative health” care, he added.

In terms of treatments, the ODH “has a supply,” Vanderhoff said, adding that while personal insurance plans may have varying levels of treatment coverage, a “bridge program” for the uninsured is in place through 2024.

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One Response to “COVID-19 emergency ends”

  1. Paisley Greenwitch says:

    OK.So, When do we get another vaccine? Even if it’s yearly, when should we get one? Is it based on how long ago we had the last one or what? It is not a comfortable feeling to not have complete information about this. Not at all.

    Maybe we don’t ever need another one, but someone should say something about it.

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