By: Matt McGovern, MPH, CHES, LINCS COVID-19 Epidemiologist/Data Manager
With the conclusion of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, COVID surveillance is being conducted in a slightly different manner. While cases are still being tracked, the CDC is placing an emphasis on evaluating hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and wastewater surveillance as a mechanism to monitor community spread. Similarly, the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) is still analyzing new cases. However, the focus is on a weekly perspective rather than a daily perspective as it was throughout the pandemic. There has been a slow decline in new weekly cases over the past several weeks. For instance, the last full week of available data (week ending 6/24) exhibits a 10% decline in cases compared to the prior week (week ending 6/17). The CDC has introduced COVID-19 hospital admission levels as the primary indicator for COVID-19 severity. Since the onset of this indicator being used (mid-May), all NJ counties have been in the lowest level of hospital admissions, which denotes that there are less than 10 hospital admissions per 100,000 population.
Currently, CDC forecasts project that on 7/24/23, New Jersey will range between approximately 0 to 130 new hospital admissions. For comparison purposes, on 5/15/23 (last COVID newsletter) new hospital admissions were predicted to be at about 0 to 135, which signifies hospital admissions have been projected to remain stable over the past few months. Additionally, the COVID-19 cases in New Jersey continue to be solely attributed to the omicron variant, with its subvariants comprising all cases. According to the most recent COVID-19 Variant Surveillance Report (week ending June 3, 2023), XBB.1.5 is still the most common omicron subvariant sequenced in the past 4 weeks in NJ, comprising 60.3% of sequenced samples. However, it has declined since the last COVID newsletter in May, when it accounted for 84.4% of all sequenced samples, with increases among other subvariants of omicron such as XBB.1.16 (currently at 13.8%).
Here are important updates pertaining to the end of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, which went into effect on May 11th, 2023.
- What will not be affected as a result of these changes:
- Access to vaccinations and treatments like Paxlovid and Lagevrio
- Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) for COVID-19 products (tests, vaccines, & treatments)
- Major Medicare and Medicaid telehealth flexibilities
- The process for states to begin eligibility redeterminations for Medicaid will not be affected
- Access to buprenorphine for opioid use disorder in Opioid Treatment programs (Early in the pandemic, SAMSHA issued guidance allowing patients access to buprenorphine by telehealth)
- Access to expanded methadone take-home doses for opioid use disorder
- What will be affected as a result of these changes:
- Certain Medicare & Medicaid waivers and flexibilities will end
- Coverage for COVID-19 testing will change
- Reporting of COVID-19 lab results and immunization data to the CDC
- FDA COVID-19 related guidance documents that affect clinical practice and supply chains will end
- FDA’s ability to detect early shortages of critical devices related to COVID-19 will be limited
- Public Readiness & Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act liabilities protections
- The ability of health care providers to dispense controlled substance via telehealth
For more information regarding the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency, visit the Department of Health and Humans Services webpage: https://www.hhs.gov/ .
To learn more about COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, please see below for further resources:
- Reporting At Home Test Results:
- Safely report at home COVID-19 test results for yourself or a family member through the National Institute of Health (NIH)’s “Make My Test Count” initiative. Visit https://makemytestcount.org/ for more information.
- No-Cost COVID-19 Testing Sites near you by Zipcode:
- Free, Public COVID-19 Testing Sites by County in NJ:
- Reporting At Home Test Results:
- COVID-19 Vaccines:
- Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccines:
- COVID-19 Immunization Schedule for All Age Groups (6 Months Old and Older):
- COVID-19 Vaccination Sites within and near Morris County: https://www.morriscountynj.gov/Residents/Health/Coronavirus/Vaccination-Sites
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