ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As New York State’s public health emergency on COVID-19 is set to lift in early May, Governor Kathy Hochul is asking the NYS Department of Health to evaluate changes to the way COVID data is gathered by area health departments and healthcare providers.
While there is no official guidance coming from the state on the local level just yet, some local public health directors say this is a sign that the pandemic era of the virus is winding down. They say the way in which cases are reported now is already much different.
“It’s not quite our new normal yet, but I think we’re headed that way,” said Kate Ott, deputy director of the Ontario County Public Health Department.
As COVID cases slow across New York State and in the Finger Lakes Region, local health departments are readying for an end to the state’s public health emergency.
Late last week, the governor’s office said the State Department of Health would be evaluating how COVID data is collected and reported.
Public health directors like Ott say the process has changed quite a bit with the lack of at-home tests that are now submitted.
“The states are sort of going to be on their own as far as what they’re requiring and not requiring, which frankly, is not a lot right now. Counting cases is probably not terribly meaningful. But, keeping an eye on hospitalizations, keeping an eye on nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities — They have to report when they have clusters of flu or other illnesses or viruses, and doing that with COVID is also prudent because they could put measures in place to decrease the ability of the virus to spread throughout a facility,” said Ott.
Last week, the state announced a negative COVID test would not be required for visitors at nursing home facilities in New York.
However, when it comes to a change in other guidance, health directors say that’s still to be determined.
“The state is slowly stepping away from having this be a pandemic-type disease and more of an endemic and treating it more like the flu. If there is going to be an official guidance, we don’t have it yet. So, right now we’re staying the course as we have been through the past fall and throughout the winter,” said Diane Devlin, executive director of the Wayne County Public Health Department.
As the state’s public health emergency expires in a few months, the latest COVID data will continue to be available on the state health department’s online tracker.