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NCDHHS to retire COVID-19 vaccination data, testing sites as state recovers from pandemic

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DTH Photo Illustration. The NCDHHS has announced changes to its COVID-19 dashboard and its remaining community testing sites.

As the federal government plans to end the COVID-19 public health emergency, many programs the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services put in place to support the state during the pandemic are being rolled back.

The federal public health emergency will end on May 11. 

The NCDHHS announced changes to its COVID-19 dashboard and state-funded testing sites; including the retirement of its COVID-19 vaccination data after May 31.

In addition, NCDHHS ended its remaining community testing sites on March 31, as home test kits are now widely available and people can often get them for free. NCDHHS also encourages North Carolina residents to keep several tests on hand.

"While we continue to see illness and deaths from COVID-19, it is no longer the threat it once was thanks to testing, vaccines and treatment," Dr. Susan Kansagra, the director of the NCDHHS Division of Public Health, said in the press release. 

According to a March 29 press release from NCDHHS, nationwide vaccination data will continue to be available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“At this point in North Carolina’s response, COVID-19 has become part of a routine part of public health and health care activities,” NCDHHS communications specialist Bailey Pennington Allison said in an email.

Dr. David Wohl, a professor of medicine at UNC, said the current transition is a shift from an initial response to a more status-quo response. He said the state is moving away from some of the reporting and monitoring activities that were necessary earlier in the pandemic.

"Whether we like it or not, we've entered a different phase of the pandemic," Wohl said.

Although vaccine tracking data will no longer be publicly available, NCDHHS will continue tracking COVID-19 updates and incorporate them with other respiratory illness data. These metrics will be part of the North Carolina Respiratory Virus Summary Dashboard.

"We will still see data," Wohl said. "We will still get reports. It's not like we're going to be completely in the dark."

Although COVID-19 cases have been steadily on the decline in North Carolina, he said it is impossible to predict the future and that we may need to bring back these resources later. 

The state has historically seen a surge of COVID-19 cases around July, Wohl said. Because of this, he believes the state should still be prepared for another variant or surge in cases over the summer.

“Right now, we're in this period of time where the variant that is dominant has remained dominant, and that's unusual," Wohl said. "Usually, another variant comes along not too long after and knocks the king off the throne. So that will almost certainly happen."

UNC students have varying opinions about the new changes to available COVID-19 resources in the state and how they might impact life on campus.

"I think we definitely need to keep tracking it because I think we should track all diseases so we can be up to date with what's really happening with it," UNC junior Isabella Mowery said.

She said that while COVID-19 is no longer a full-on pandemic, there are still people who catch the virus. 

UNC junior Lu Wang said she has many friends who have recently had COVID-19. However, she said she thinks the virus no longer hurts people as much as it did earlier in the pandemic. 

"I think it's just the same as, like, a normal cold, a normal flu, so that is not too necessary to track,” Wang said.

According to the NCDHHS, vaccines remain the best protection against serious illness and death from COVID-19. 

More information about COVID-19 vaccinations is available at www.myspot.nc.gov.

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@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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