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COVID-19 public health emergency declaration has expired

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COVID-19 public health emergency declaration has expired

This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name. Public domain image obtained via https://www.niaid.nih.gov/news-events/novel-coronavirus-sarscov2-images

Atlanta, GA — The federal public health emergency declaration expired on Thursday, May 11. Since there are safe and effective vaccines, ample testing infrastructure, and most people have some level of immunity, COVID-19 is no longer a public health emergency, according to the state Department of Public Health.

Since the end of the peak of the Omicron variant surge in January 2022, the number of daily reported COVID-19 cases is down over 98%, according to a press release from the Georgia Department of Public Health. COVID-19 deaths have also decreased by 97% and newly reported COVID-19 hospitalizations are down 97% as well.

The end of the public health emergency will have a minimal impact on the public in Georgia. Most prevention tools, like testing, vaccines, and treatments, will still be available. But other tools, like certain data sources and reporting, will change.

COVID-19 tests and vaccines will remain available at no cost at health departments across the state for the foreseeable future. For information about vaccine locations, please visit https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-vaccine.

Tests, both lab/PCR tests and over-the-counter tests, are available at no cost at local health departments, 24-hour kiosks around the state, and at regional drive-through testing sites. Testing locations and hours and at-home test kits can be found at https://dph.georgia.gov/covidtesting.

Medication to prevent severe COVID-19, such as Paxlovid, will still be available at no cost while supplies purchased by the federal government last. After that, the price will be determined by the medication manufacturer and individual health insurance coverage. Individuals are encouraged to check with their healthcare provider if they need early treatment, within 48 hours of symptoms, to prevent severe COVID-19.

The end of the public health emergency declaration also means that some data will no longer be mandated to be reported to the state DPH or nationally.

“COVID-19 cases will remain reportable and cases that are reported to DPH will still be published in the DPH Weekly COVID Status Report, as will deaths and some hospital data,” the press release states. “Percent positivity will no longer be published since reporting of negative COVID-19 test results which are required for calculating percent positivity will no longer be reported. This also means the CDC’s Community Transmission Index and Community Transmission Levels will be discontinued. DPH will continue to update the Status Report every Wednesday for several more weeks as we assess the data we receive and transition to monthly updates.”

The state Department of Public Health, however, is reminding Georgians that the end of the public health emergency declaration does not mean that COVID-19 is over.

“Georgians should stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations, get tested if they have been exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms, stay home if they are sick, and check with their healthcare provider about available COVID-19 treatments,” the press release says.

Additional information about the end of the PHE can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/end-of-phe.html. For updates on COVID-19, log onto https://dph.georgia.gov/.

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