May 16, 2023 - COVID

San Antonio Metro Health slows COVID-19 data reporting

Illustration of a combination word balloon and covid particle, with the covid prongs retracting.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

San Antonio's Metropolitan Health District will stop reporting some COVID-19 data online after the city ended its COVID-19 emergency declaration last week.

Why it matters: The move comes less than a week after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 is no longer a global health emergency and as the U.S. ended its federal emergency.

  • There were 587 new COVID-19 cases in Bexar County as of last week, the most recent number available Monday. Metro Health reported no new deaths last week.

The big picture: It's been more than three years since the WHO declared the coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern — the global body's highest alert level. Since then, there have been more than 765 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, and nearly 7 million people have died of the virus worldwide.

Yes, but: COVID-19 isn't eradicated. The city's health department will continue to report COVID-19 cases and deaths weekly on its surveillance dashboard, a Metro Health spokesperson tells Axios.

Context: For three years, San Antonians turned to Metro Health dashboards to gain a succinct understanding of how much the virus was spreading in the community at a given time. It aided many in planning vacations and holiday gatherings and helped determine the scope of large events.

Zoom in: Metro Health will end its reporting of local vaccination coverage levels, COVID-19 positivity rates, lab testing data and hospital trends, a spokesperson tells Axios.

  • It will also terminate a dashboard showing community risk level, which has offered a bird's-eye view of COVID-19 levels in San Antonio. The dashboard currently reports the risk level is low but steady.

What they're saying: "Public health remains a critical city service," city manager Erik Walsh said in a statement. "We will continue to create a more inclusive public health approach by investing in programs that prevent diseases and enhance access to health care for all."

  • "The end of the COVID-19 emergency declaration is a key milestone for our community, public health workers and the overall nation," Mayor Ron Nirenberg said in a statement.

Details: As Metro Health winds down its data reporting, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will stop tracking COVID-19 community levels, Axios' Sabrina Moreno reports.

  • The federal government has also scaled back what hospitals and local health departments are required to report, including patients' age and ethnicity.
  • And without an emergency, states no longer have to divulge public health data, though wastewater surveillance and hospital admissions will continue to offer some clues.

Flashback: The city issued the public health emergency in 2020, and the City Council indefinitely extended it in June that year.

By the numbers: Metro Health has administered more than 626,000 COVID-19 tests, per a city news release. The department administered more than 226,700 COVID-19 vaccine doses at the Alamodome’s mass vaccination site across 15 months.

  • The city's COVID-19 hotline has answered more than 18,000 calls.
  • The health department hosted more than 600 outreach events, including pop-up vaccination clinics, over the course of the pandemic.

What's next: The city has been putting more local resources toward public health as it rolls out SA Forward, a new strategic plan for Metro Health's future.

  • Bexar County also has sought more local involvement in public health as leaders put federal COVID-19 relief dollars toward a new county public health division within University Health System.

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