More than two years since the first executive order declaring a State of Emergency was signed, Gov. Mike Parson is moving COVID-19 from pandemic status to endemic.
Effective April 1, Missouri is shifting its response to COVID-19 to an endemic phase. The move will ease the state’s monitoring of the disease.
“Over the past two years, we have learned a lot that will help us respond to future outbreaks and challenges that may come our way,” Parson said in a statement. “We don’t know if this virus will ever completely go away, but we do know that there is no longer a need to live in crisis mode and that we can shift our response to meet the current needs of Missourians. The COVID-19 crisis is over in the state of Missouri, and we are moving on.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an endemic is defined as “the constant presence of (a disease) within a given geographic area or population.” A new disease moves from pandemic or epidemic status to endemic once its presence levels off to what can be considered a baseline.
Despite what the announcement may suggest, a document detailing the shift states that “the transition of COVID-19 to an endemic disease is not a declaration of the end of the pandemic and does not minimize the continued importance of public health surveillance, investigation and response activities.”
For two years, the state has focused its monitoring of COVID-19 to the number of individual cases. Now in endemic status, state health officials will be focusing more on monitoring disease severity and social impact.
However, that does not mean the state will stop collecting other data. According to Missouri’s latest Show Me Strong recovery plan, the state will be monitoring the following metrics to identify COVID-19 trends and respond accordingly:
Essentially, the new “endemic surveillance” mirrors actions taken during the pandemic response, but with key differences in how those actions are executed. For example, Missouri will reduce its reporting frequency on the COVID-19 dashboard from daily to weekly. Updates to the dashboard will occur every Friday.
Missouri will continue to provide free vaccines to citizens as long as federal resources are available, eventually moving to a more traditional health care approach to vaccine access.
Regarding contact tracing, the state is encouraging local governments to investigate cases within vulnerable populations. Before April 1, Missouri implemented universal case investigations and contact tracing.
“We have all learned much during the COVID-19 response and public health recognizes we will continue to learn from research and reviews for decades to come,” Paula Nickelson, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ acting director, said in a statement. “As we enter this next phase of our state’s recovery, we continue to encourage Missourians to safeguard their own health and the health of loved ones through tried and true public health measures.”
To date, more than 14 million tests have been performed in Missouri. Additionally, more than 81,000 treatment courses have been distributed and nearly 9 million vaccine doses administered.
As of press time, nearly every county in Missouri has a low COVID-19 Community Level, which indicates those counties are mostly in the clear. Only two counties have a high Community Level: Grundy and Mercer. Nine counties have a medium Community Level: Butler, Dunklin, Knox, McDonald, Mississippi, Perry, Pettis, Shelby and Wayne.
Raymore hit its peak of weekly COVID-19 cases earlier this year with more than 250 cases reported during the week of Jan. 9. For the week ending April 2, the number of reported cases in Raymore was close to zero.
On April 3, no student or staff member of the Raymore-Peculiar School District was required to be in isolation or quarantine. Only two new positive cases were reported during the week ending April 1.
Missouri is one of several states to declare COVID-19 an endemic. California was the first state to do so on Feb. 17. First issued on March 13, 2020, the last executive order extending the State of Emergency in Missouri expired on Dec. 31, 2021.
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