The COVID-19 public health emergency has ended. What’s next?

The federal COVID-19 public health emergency declaration ended on May 11. While COVID-19 cases are down and have continued to trend downward over the past few months, the virus is not gone. COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the U.S. and the world.

In April, Fairfield County had over 200 new COVID-19 cases and two deaths.

We have come a long way since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, and we are in a much better place than when COVID-19 cases and deaths peaked in January of 2022, with 58 local deaths recorded in that month. The surge in cases at the end of 2021 was tied to the emergence of the Omicron variant. New variants are a normal part of the evolution of a virus over time, and COVID-19 is no exception. Our public health systems continue to monitor new COVID-19 cases to quickly identify any new variants of concern which could cause a spike in cases.

The end of the emergency declaration will eventually impact the availability of free COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, and treatment. In the near term, free vaccinations will continue to be available for uninsured individuals, and free home test kits are available from the Health Department.

Much like the flu, and other seasonal respiratory diseases, COVID-19 is here to stay. While we hope to avoid major outbreaks in the future, it’s important to continue staying up to date on vaccines and taking advantage of tests and treatments to reduce its spread and to avoid severe cases and complications. Public health experts continue to recommend that you use at-home tests you’ve been exposed to or have COVID symptoms, cover your cough, wash your hands, and stay home if you’re sick.

Joe Ebel is the Fairfield County Health Commissioner

This article originally appeared on Lancaster Eagle-Gazette: The COVID-19 public health emergency has ended. What’s next?