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U.S. ends mandatory reporting of COVID hospitalizations

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Hospitals in the United States are no longer required to report hospital admissions for COVID-19, making it even more difficult to track the current state of the pandemic, which is still killing hundreds of Americans a week.

“Effective May 1, 2024, hospitals are no longer required to report COVID-19 hospital admissions, hospital capacity, or hospital occupancy data to HHS through CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network,” the CDC said in a statement.

Hospital data was available throughout the pandemic and was cited as an alternative data point when the Public Health Emergency expired in May 2023, which prompted many states to end their own reporting.

“We now enter the blackout phase of epidemiology: There will be patients, but their numbers and whereabouts will be unknown, with no central databases,” science journalist Laurie Garrett wrote on X.

The CDC encourages hospitals to continue submitting data about respiratory illnesses but it’s not yet clear how many hospitals will participate on a voluntary basis.

“The COVID-19-related data reporting is important in supporting surveillance of, and response to, COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses,” the CDC said on its website. “Given the value of these data for patient safety and public health, CDC strongly encourages ongoing, voluntary reporting of the data through NHSN.”

In February, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) submitted a proposal which would require hospitals to continue reporting COVID, flu and RSV data on a weekly basis. If the proposal is approved, it would take effect on October 1.

“These proposed reporting requirements ensure that hospitals and CAHs (Critical Access Hospitals) have appropriate insight related to evolving infection control needs,” CMS said in the proposal, which is currently accepting comments from the public.

COVID levels are currently at relatively low levels, which is typical for this time of the year.

More than 3.1 million cases of COVID have been reported in the U.S. so far this year, causing 271,780 hospitalizations and 27,460 deaths, according to the BNO News tracker, which uses hospital data to fill gaps in reporting. BNO News will continue publishing weekly reports about the state of COVID on X, though the lack of hospital data will cause significant gaps.

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