Changes in COVID-19 Data Reporting
The California COVID-19 State of Emergency ended February 28, 2023 and the federal Public Health Emergency for COVID-19 ended May 11, 2023. In response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), and the Fresno County Department of Public Health (FCDPH), will shift to more sustainable and meaningful public health practices and data reporting.
As a county, we now find ourselves at a different point in the pandemic. We are in a better place in our response, with more tools and resources to better protect the community (e.g., testing, vaccinations, treatments) and can transition away from the emergency phase.
COVID-19 is still a public health risk and a Public Health Department priority. Though our data going forward will be different, the Department is still committed to COVID-19 surveillance and monitoring.
One of the bigger data changes is that aggregated COVID-19 case data dashboards will be retired. With widespread use of at-home testing, the number of cases confirmed by PCR and Point-Of-Care testing represents only a fraction of actual cases in the community. Metrics of disease severity, like hospitalizations and deaths, as well as wastewater levels of SARS-CoV-2, provide a more reliable and sustainable picture of the impact of COVID-19.
Data Moving Forward
Aggregate counts of COVID-19 cases have become less representative of actual community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 over time, related to decreased laboratory testing, increased at-home testing, changes in reporting practices, and asymptomatic infections. In the next phase of surveillance, aggregated COVID-19 case data will no longer be reported on routine dashboards or used as a primary surveillance metric.
CDC Principal Deputy Director Dr. Nirav Shah, “we will still be able to tell that it’s snowing, even though we’re no longer counting every snowflake”.
Death (Mortality) Data
Moving forward, COVID-19 death certificate data from the California Integrated Vital Records System will be used as the primary source of COVID-19 death data.
Reporting of COVID-19 deaths will shift to align with reporting methods similar to other communicable diseases under public health surveillance.
Genomic/ Variant surveillance
Genomic surveillance to estimate SARS-CoV-2 circulating variants will continue at a national, regional, and state level. During the pandemic County trends have aligned with Statewide variant trends.
Vaccines remain one of the best tools to prevent severe illness, hospitalizations, and death from COVID-19. Vaccines remain easily accessible in Fresno County. Due to the plateau in Fresno County vaccination trends, the increased surveillance offered by the FCDPH COVID-19 Immunization Dashboard is no longer providing meaningful insights and will be retired. Data can still be found on State and CDC websites.
Those with COVID-19 can shed the virus in their feces (waste), even if they don’t have symptoms. The virus can then be detected in wastewater. Wastewater surveillance acts as an early warning that COVID-19 is spreading in a community.
COVID-19 associated hospital admission levels will continue to be reported. This data can act as a primary indicator of COVID-19 trends to help guide community and personal decisions related to risk and prevention behaviors. There has been a >99% concordance between the CDC COVID-19 Community Levels by county, which are being retired, and the new hospital admission driven metrics. In addition to hospital admission data, syndromic surveillance of emergency department visits will be monitored for any trends signaling a potential increase in circulating COVID-19.
*Please note that CDPH is reconfiguring hospitalization data pathways in May/June. During this time there may be a temporary pause on data.
The websites listed above do not represent a comprehensive list of all COVID-19 resources.
To see additional FCDPH Epidemiology Reports and Statistics please go to the Epidemiology Program Page.