National public-health emergency for Covid-19 ends Thursday but experts warn that another Omicron-like outbreak is still possible

Covid-19 is no longer a global health emergency, and the U.S. public health emergency ends May 11, but the pandemic is not over and the disease remans a threat, the World Health Organization said Friday.

Experts recently warned the White House that “There’s a roughly 20 percent chance during the next two years of an outbreak rivaling the onslaught of illness inflicted by the Omicron variant” of the coronavirus, reports Dan Diamond of The Washington Post. “A forecast from one widely regarded scientist pegged the risk at a more alarming level, suggesting a 40 percent chance of an omicron-like wave.” Thousands of people around the world are still dying from the virus every week, the WHO said.

“Fewer than 80,000 confirmed coronavirus cases were reported across the United States last week — the lowest figure since March 2020,” Diamond notes. “But the actual rate of infection is almost certainly far higher than the reported numbers, with many Americans testing at home, if at all, and opting not to report their results. The potential for large indoor gatherings to fuel coronavirus infections remains high, as illustrated by about three dozen cases linked to a CDC conference last week. The virus remains on pace to be one of the top 10 causes of death this year, with fatalities concentrated among older and immunocompromised individuals.”

The end of the national public-health emergency means that many broad federal measures, including vaccine mandates, will end. Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “will have less data to track the spread of Covid and new variants,” CNBC reports. “The U.S. has a fragmented health-care system where the authority to decide what disease data gets reported largely rests with states and corporations, not the CDC,” but the agency will continue to get “data from the nation’s hospitals, a network of voluntary labs and sewage surveillance.”

The latest CDC maps for Kentucky show all of the state’s counties with a low risk of Covid-19, but another CDC map shows that transmission of the virus is still high or substantial in many counties. Most counties have a moderate level of transmission, indicated in yellow on the map; a few have low levels, indicatd in blue. The latter map is used mainly by hospitals and researchers; health officials say people should take their prevention guidance from the other map, which shows all Kentucky counties in green.
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