The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that it will publish COVID-19 cases and deaths on a weekly basis, marking a major shift in its reporting since the start of the pandemic.
“To allow for additional reporting flexibility, reduce the reporting burden on states and jurisdictions, and maximize surveillance resources, CDC is moving to a weekly reporting cadence,” the federal agency said in a statement last week.
Local and state health departments, under the new guidance, will have to report new COVID-19 deaths and cases to the CDC every week on Wednesdays. The new change will go into effect starting Oct. 20, according to the agency.
“Data processing cutoffs for jurisdictions will be every Wednesday at 10 A.M. ET for line level case and death data, and Wednesday at 5 P.M. ET for aggregate case and death data,” the CDC said.
Daily data on COVID-19 hospitalizations will still be provided, according to the CDC, and it will use information from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said on Oct. 7 that a number of states have shifted away from daily reporting to a weekly reporting system. Jha said that daily reporting has become unreliable.
“What I think CDC is doing is moving to a weekly cadence that reflects where states are across the country,” Jha said during a briefing. “That said, the COVID team at the White House, the work of the CDC on looking at data and analysis—that continues at seven days a week where we have daily data available.”
A similar move was made several months ago when the CDC shifted from daily to weekly reporting of COVID-19 vaccinations. New data is published only on Thursdays now.
And earlier this month, the CDC announced it will no longer be reporting country-by-country COVID-19 travel advisories until there is a significant development, such as the emergence of a new variant, officials said. And in June, the federal government ended its requirement for international travelers coming to the United States to provide a COVID-19 test.
As recently as March, the CDC recommended against travel to about 120 countries and territories worldwide or more than half of all destinations.
In early April, the CDC dropped a “do not travel” warning for about 90 separate countries and other locations due to COVID-19. That label will only be used for special circumstances, the agency said.
Months later, the CDC in July ended its COVID-19 reporting program for cruise ships, prompting several operators to drop mask, vaccine, and testing requirements. Since the start of the pandemic, COVID-19-related lockdowns, mandates, and other restrictions have battered the cruise industry.
“While cruising poses some risk of COVID-19 transmission,” the CDC had said, “CDC will continue to publish guidance to help cruise ships continue to provide a safer and healthier environment for crew, passengers, and communities going forward.”
But one of the most significant changes to the CDC’s guidance came two months ago when officials moved to revise the agency’s longstanding COVID-19 mitigation rules. That included a change to how the CDC makes determinations on vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
The guidelines from the federal agency no longer recommend staying at least six feet away from other people to reduce exposure. The six-foot social distancing recommendation had been intact since early 2020, although some public health officials have addressed questions about the effectiveness of the measure.
“CDC’s COVID-19 prevention recommendations no longer differentiate based on a person’s vaccination status because breakthrough infections occur, though they are generally mild, and persons who have had COVID-19 but are not vaccinated have some degree of protection against severe illness from their previous infection,” the CDC said.
Amid the shift in guidance, President Joe Biden told “60 Minutes” during a rare sit-down interview that the pandemic “is over.”